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Tuesday 27 September 2016

Dublin cruise gives little insight

Leinster SHC: Dublin 2-19 Wexford 0-12

David Treacy of Dublin dries his hurley before taking a free during the Leinster SHC quarter-final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile
David Treacy of Dublin dries his hurley before taking a free during the Leinster SHC quarter-final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile

There was a time when Dublin hurlers would relish a date with Wexford, as a barometer of where they stood in the Leinster pecking order. Now we're not so sure. And nor, for that matter, are they.

Ger Cunningham's men did what was expected of them amid the Saturday night downpours, at a sparsely attended Croke Park that had all the atmosphere of a wake, or maybe a Walsh Cup final.

But Kilkenny in Portlaoise on June 11 will be like a different sport. A blood sport even: kill or be killed. Dublin have the advantage of a competitive warm-up - we use the term loosely after this tepid fare.

"The ultimate challenge really," said Cunningham. "These guys have been champions for the guts of the last 10 or 12 years. It's a huge challenge for us, but any of the guys inside in the dressing-room will hopefully look forward to it.

Delighted

"Some of the aspects tonight won't be good enough to go to Portlaoise and beat Kilkenny, so there's stuff we'll have to work on - but just delighted to be in a position to take them on."

Watched by 13,066 sodden souls, his team had sauntered home by 13 points, having landed the last seven scores.

But, by then, Wexford had mentally checked out in the realisation that first half goals for Eamon Dillon (16 minutes) and Darragh O'Connell (33) had left their slim hopes beyond redemption.

It begged the inevitable question about what progress, if any, Wexford are making.

"When you look at a performance like that, straight up you'd have to say no," admitted their manager, Liam Dunne. "But there's a such a transition of players from this team in the last two or three years ... people will say you're not making progress but you're introducing young guys all the time. And they're learning harsh lessons at the moment."

With Liam Óg McGovern and Conor McDonald their sole beacons of attacking promise, the visitors started brightly enough and led three times in the opening quarter. But, by the midpoint, they were 2-10 to 0-8 adrift. The closest they came, thereafter, was six points; goal chances for Podge Doran and McDonald came to nothing and this Leinster SHC quarter-final, less than absorbing in the first place, fizzled out completely.

Wexford could cite a handful of injury absentees, Lee Chin the most notable. But they look stale; it seems hard to countenance Dunne staying beyond the qualifiers.

He referenced the wider issue of players who won't play for their county. "We can't afford not to have everybody," Dunne lamented. "And you think of those guys in the dressing room, they'll be ridiculed by everyone after that, which you have to take on the chin. Some fellas don't want that. They wonder is it worth the hassle and they decide it isn't. Some fellas will die for it. Everyone is different."

None of that is Cunningham's concern. He needed a solid performance after Dublin's latest bout of league oscillations and he got one.

His new-look defence coughed up just 12 points. The half-back line, all giants of men, swallowed their half-forward opponents whole in the second half.

Liam Rushe had a relatively quiet first half but marshalled the defence expertly in the second, Wexford's tendency to drop long-range frees on top of the square allowing the captain to reprise his best high-fielding Darragh Ó Sé impression.

Johnny McCaffrey was one of Dublin's top two performers - consistently busy in the engine-room and a font of tidy distribution. The other star man? Niall McMorrow, whose ability to hoover up loose ball, pirouette into a yard of space and finish with tidy economy yielded 0-4. Almost par for the McMorrow course this season.

Cleverness

Other highlights included Dillon's cleverness for his goal. His marker, Liam Ryan, had started like a train ... but the second he lost his hurl, Dillon pounced to dispossess. One lightning acceleration and impudently scooped finish later, the net was dancing.

The flip side is that Wexford's defensive corridor was left wide open; and then for the second goal, all the covering backs got drawn towards Mark Schutte after his soaring catch ... it only took one reverse offload to leave O'Connell all alone for his finish.

Far too easy. Won't be like that on June 11.

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