Dublin strike back as Wexford let win slip
Wexford 2-6 Dublin 0-12
After 65 minutes of yesterday's O'Byrne Cup opener, the stand in Enniscorthy burst into a spontaneous rendition of 'Come On You Boys In Blue'.
On first glance it appeared a strange setting for such a musical outpouring - the first Sunday in January, very little of consequence at stake - and yet there was reason behind it too.
The diehard Dublin army clearly outnumbered their hosts and they had just witnessed their team reel off seven unanswered second half points to draw level. Dean Rock's free from the left touchline made it 0-11 apiece; Wexford's initial first half vim was but a distant memory. And just a few seconds later, Ciaran Reddin unleashed a 20-metre thunderbolt that sped past Anthony Masterson only to crash against the underside of the crossbar.
A goal then and Sky Blue victory would have been assured. As it transpired, the ball stayed out and Wexford regained the lead with their only point of the second half, on 67 minutes, courtesy of their prodigal sub, PJ Banville.
It would have been cruel luck on an understrength Dublin if that score had sealed their fate, if only because they lorded the second half. It would have been crueller still on Rock, whose determination to avoid defeat was epitomised by a brilliant, booming equaliser from distance in the 70th minute.
It was his sixth point, his fourth from play. By then he had long since atoned for an unconvincing first half penalty, saved low down by Masterson, to claim Man of the Match honours. Not that there were any such trinkets on display in St Patrick's Park.
There wasn't even a match programme for those punters asked to pay €10 for the privilege of identifying the assorted fringe players on view.
It gets better (or worse). The Wexford team on its official website bore only vague association with the players and/or numbers that took the field. Dublin, meanwhile, had announced a match-day squad in alphabetical fashion, briefly raising the 'startled earwig' spectre of Denis Bastick being reinvented as a full-back and Paddy Andrews as a corner-back accomplice for the first time since the ill-fated Kerry calamity of 2009.
Before throw-in, however, Dublin could confim their starting 15 with Bastick lining out at midfield and Andrews at full-forward. The latter was, by some distance, their most menacing forward in that opening 35 minutes, with three assists and a fisted point in injury-time.
And yet Dublin still trailed by 2-5 to 0-4, primarily because their defence looked vulnerable whenever Wexford attacked them through the middle. In mitigation, they were minus a host of defensive regulars, including Rory O'Carroll who won't be involved at all this season after Jim Gavin confirmed that his All Star full-back will be spending the year in New Zealand.
Wexford made early hay in his absence. One simple sixth minute handpass - from Adrian Flynn - opened them up far too easily, and Ben Brosnan took clinical advantage.
When debutant Con O'Callaghan was fouled in the act of shooting, Dublin had a chance to draw level only for Rock to squander the penalty. That looked a decisive turning point when Wexford promptly riposted with a penalty of their own, this time Brosnan creating the 13th minute chance for Flynn to convert.
The second half was a different story, partly because James McCarthy's introduction for Bastick helped to wrest the midfield initiative. In truth, all the Dublin players upped their game, and not even Philly McMahon's black card for a retaliatory hand-trip on Brian Malone - who had just floored him with a crunching, legitimate shoulder - halted their fightback to deserved parity.