Hurlers’ held in dramatic finish, Wexford 2-19 Dublin 1-22

Wexford were dramatically deprived of victory by a last-gasp Dublin goaled-free in Sunday’s Leinster senior hurling championship second-stage round-robin duel at a packed Parnell Park.

Wexford demonstrated tremendous character when overcoming a 0-18 to 0-14 deficit after 47 minutes to storm in front by 2-19 to 0-22 entering injury-time with the considerable aid of 56th and 64th minute goals from Liam Óg McGovern and Rory O’Connor respectively.

But Dublin refused to yield, and their unrelenting pressure eventually paid off when centre-back Seán Moran rifled a free from just inside the right-edge of the ‘D’ to the net to force a draw, with the final-whistle sounding seconds later.

The result keeps Dublin in with a fighting chance of qualification after their loss to Kilkenny the previous weekend, when Wexford enjoyed a bye.

The purple-and-gold didn’t appear adversely affected by their delayed start to this year’s championship as they raced into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead within five minutes courtesy of ‘Ogie’ McGovern, Lee Chin (free) and Shaun Murphy.

Dublin were quite wasteful at this stage, but Mattie Kenny’s men eventually found their range to tie on 0-5 apiece after 15 minutes, Shaun Murphy and Lee Chin (free) continuing to keep Wexford on target.

But the Sky Blues threatened to catch fire when bursting ahead by 0-8 to 0-5 after 19 minutes, before Conor McDonald produced the tonic of two quick-fire points – including a line-ball – and Lee Chin also weighed in from a ’65 to restore parity, at 0-8 each, after 27 minutes.

Chin was on target three more times from placed-balls before half-time.

But after Aidan Nolan was thwarted in an advance on goal and Liam Rushe forced a save from Mark Fanning at the other end, a third personal free from Dublin’s Paul Ryan five minutes into added-time left the sides tied for a fifth-time at the change-of-ends (0-11 each).

The nip-and-tuck nature of proceedings extended into an absorbing second-half as Dublin pegged back points from Chin (free), McDonald (another line-ball) and Nolan to level matters for an eighth-time after 42 minutes (0-14 apiece).

But Dublin seemed to be asserting themselves when a burst of four points from Paul Ryan – including 3 frees – turned the tables by 0-18 to 0-14 on 47 minutes.

However, after Lee Chin replied with another pointed free, Mark Fanning excelled himself yet again with a double save as he denied Conal Keaney and then Cian Boland from finding the net. Seán Moran did manage a point from that passage of pressure, before Tomás Connolly widened the margin to 0-20 to 0-18 on 55 minutes.

Yet, Fanning’s heroics had the desired effect on his colleagues as they lifted their game, and Shaun Murphy combined with Jack O’Connor to feed Liam Óg McGovern to power to the net and slice the gap to 0-20 to 1-15 after 56 minutes.

Jack O’Connor threatened a goal shortly afterwards, but Lee Chin (2 frees) and Shaun Murphy swung the clash Wexford’s way after 61 minutes (1-18 to 0-20) before Dublin drew level for a tenth-time, on 0-21 to 1-18.

Wexford were sensing something special, and Liam Óg McGovern lit the fuse for another explosive breakthrough with a tidy lay off for Rory O’Connor to smash an angled drive to the far top-corner of the net, before Lee Chin pointed from play to leave Wexford 2-19 to 0-22 up two minutes into injury-time.

Unfortunately there was enough time for the Dubs to snatch a lifeline in terms of their qualification hopes, with Moran’s last-gasp free denying Wexford back-to-back championship successes over the Sky Blues, but heartened nevertheless by their fighting display as they head out West next weekend to face Galway.

Dublin – Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Eoghan O’Donnell, Tomás Connolly (0-2); Shane Barrett, Seán Moran (1-2, 1-1 frees), Chris Crummy (0-1); Seán Treacy, Danny Sutcliffe, Cian Boland (0-3), Conal Keaney (0-2), Eamonn Dillon (0-1); Paul Ryan (0-10, 7 frees, 1 ’65), Liam Rushe St. Patrick’s, Fergal Whitely (0-1).

Subs: David Treacy for Conal Keaney (49); Jake Malone for Cian Boland (60); Caolan Conway for Seán Treacy (63); Ronan Hayes for Fergal Whitely (68).

Wexford – Mark Fanning; Damien Reck, Liam Ryan, Simon Donohoe; Pádraig Foley, Matthew O’Hanlon, Aidan Nolan (0-1); Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Shaun Murphy (0-3); Kevin Foley, Liam Óg McGovern (1-1), Lee Chin (0-11, 8 frees, 2 ’65s); Conor McDonald (0-3, 2 line-balls), Jack O’Connor, Rory O’Connor (1-0).

Subs: Cathal Dunbar for Aidan Nolan (53); David Dunne for Conor McDonald (66); Harry Kehoe for Jack O’Connor (67); Shane Reck for Shaun Murphy (73).               Referee – Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).