Cormac Costello, Dublin, and Liam O'Connor, Wexford, in Leinster Senior Football Championship action.
Cormac Costello, Dublin, and Liam O'Connor, Wexford, in Leinster Senior Football Championship action.

Leinster SFC: Dublin overcome spirited Wexford

Leinster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final


By Ronan Fagan at Chadwicks Wexford Park

Stephen Cluxton’s Dublin future remains in doubt after the decorated goalkeeper wasn’t involved when the seven-in-a-row-seeking All-Ireland champions opened their 2021 Championship by taming Wexford in Sunday’s Leinster quarter-final at Chadwicks Wexford Park.

Cluxton hasn’t been involved this season, missing only a fifth championship game in 20 campaigns as his heir apparent Evan Comerford went untroubled in his third-ever championship appearance.

“He’s not retired. He’s just stepped away,” manager Dessie Farrell suggested regarding Cluxton as Farrell returned from a 12-week sideline ban to oversee the Sky Blues’ 31st straight victory in the provincial competition.

But Allianz Football League Division Four Wexford are sure to derive tremendous heart from a controlled effort as they contained Dublin to their tightest margin of victory since a seven-point success over Meath in the 2013 Leinster final.

Dublin were off-cue from a couple of early frees as Wexford settled purposefully to twice lead within the first nine minutes.

Brian Fenton booted a first-minute ice-breaker before Wexford demonstrated their intent when Mark Rossiter levelled from a free before quickly adding a fifth-minute lead score (0-2 to 0-1).

Cormac Costello responded from a free, but Brian Malone – on his 50th championship outing – set up John Tubritt to restore the challengers’ lead (0-3 to 0-2) after nine minutes before fourteen scoreless minutes ensued.

Dublin warmed to the task after the first water-break as Ciarán Kilkenny levelled before Costello posted a couple of frees, and centre-back Brian Howard chipped in before Con O’Callaghan struck an upright as the Sky Blues carved out a 0-6 to 0-3 half-time lead.

Wexford selector Anthony Masterson was banished to the Stand on the resumption after referee Derek O’Mahoney encountered some harsh words while exiting the pitch at the break.

Dublin dominated territorially as matters resumed, with experienced Wexford defender Michael Furlong drawing rich appreciation from locals amongst the 500 strong attendance after intervening to prevent Con O’Callaghan from netting.

Nevertheless, Brian Howard tagged on a second personal score and Cormac Costello added two frees as Dublin stretched ahead 0-9 to 0-3 after 45 minutes.

Niall Scully had a gilt-edged goal chance moments later but somehow miscued.

Wexford remained honest, and Páraic Hughes grabbed their first score since the ninth-minute when kicking a superb 49th-minute point to peg it back to 0-9 to 0-4.

Sure-footed Dublin continued to inch clear as Fenton and Costello – the latter’s first from play – eased them ahead 0-11 to 0-4 at the last drinks break.

Mark Rossiter (free) and substitute Donal Shanley (free and play) grabbed consolation scores for big-hearted Wexford.

Dublin cemented victory with a closing burst of scores from subs Tom Lahiff and Colm Basquel together with Costello, before another substitute, Dean Rock extended the victory to eight points in Rock’s first appearance of the season.

Scorers for Dublin: Cormac Costello 0-7 (5fs), Brian Fenton, Brian Howard 0-2 each, Ciarán Kilkenny, Tom Lahiff, Colm Basquel, Dean Rock 0-1 each.

Scorers for Wexford: Mark Rossiter 0-3 (2fs), Donal Shanley 0-2 (1f), John Tubritt, Páraic Hughes 0-1 each.

DUBLIN: Evan Comerford; Michael Fitzsimons, David Byrne, Seán McMahon; James McCarthy, Brian Howard, Robert McDaid; Brian Fenton, Peadar Ó Cofaigh-Byrne; Paddy Small, Ciarán Kilkenny, Niall Scully; Ryan Basquel, Con O’Callaghan, Cormac Costello.

Subs: Tom Lahiff for McDaid inj., (34); Seán Bugler for R. Basquel; Colm Basquel for Scully (53); Aaron Byrne for Small (56); Dean Rock (0-1) for Byrne (66).

WEXFORD: Darragh Brooks; Liam O’Connor, Gavin Sheehan, Eoin Porter; Michael Furlong, Martin O’Connor, Brian Malone; Daithí Waters, Liam Coleman; Páraic Hughes, Tom Byrne, Kevin O’Grady; John Tubritt, Niall Hughes, Mark Rossiter.

Subs: Seán Nolan for Tubritt (42); Alan Tobin for Waters, inj. (58); Robbie Brooks for Hughes (63); Donal Shanley for Rossiter (63); Conor Carty for O’Grady, inj. (66).

Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).