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Dublin: 5°C Friday 5 March 2021

O'Connor brothers shine, Wexford composure, and referee doling out 16 cards unpopular with both sides

Dublin and Wexford played out a fascinating encounter at Croke Park.

jack-oconnor-scores-a-goal Jack O'Connor scores a goal for Wexford. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

1. O’Connor brothers lead the Wexford charge

WHEN WEXFORD WERE reduced to 13 men late in the second half, it seemed to pave the way for a Dublin victory.

Conor McDonald, a key forward for Wexford, had just entered the fray when he was dismissed for a late challenge. He left the pitch just under 15 minutes before defender Shaun Murphy suffered the same fate with two yellows.

At that point, Mattie Kenny’s side were leading by three points with just over 10 minutes of normal time remaining. They traded scores to keep their noses in front and just needed to finish out the remainder.

With McDonald gone, and Lee Chin substituted after his influence was negated for much of the game, Wexford seemingly had few outlets to turn to.

Then up stepped the O’Connor brothers from the St Martin’s club. Between them, Rory and Jack hit 1-4 to help Wexford snatch a crucial win.

Man-of-the-match Rory scored three crucial points in the final 10 minutes while his older brother popped up with that decisive goal on 73 minutes after coming on as Chin’s replacement. Paul Morris’ contribution was significant for Wexford as well, chipping in with seven points in all.

2. Wexford composure to keep chasing Dublin

For the second week in-a-row, Davy Fitzgerald’s side held firm to edge out a tight battle. They were protecting the lead against Kilkenny last weekend, and found themselves chasing the contest for much of their clash with Dublin.

Mark Fanning’s powerful penalty momentarily gave them the lead in the first half, but Dublin quickly reclaimed the advantage to hold a two-point lead at half-time.

mark-fanning Wexford goalkeeper scored his side's first goal from the penalty spot. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

They controlled much of the proceedings in Croke Park, never leading by less than two points at any stage of the second half. Had they extended their advantage when they were three points in front after an hour, it might have been enough to push them out of sight.

It took all of Wexford’s mettle to maintain the hunt, particularly when they didn’t take the lead until that second goal from O’Connor in injury time. By that stage, Wexford’s 13 men were battling against a 14-man Dublin, but the former benefited more from the losses in personnel. 

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Even Paul Ryan’s eight points from frees wasn’t enough to protect Dublin from defeat.

3. Referee not a popular figure for either side

Limerick official Johnny Murphy distributed 16 cards in all at Croke Park. That breaks down as 13 yellow and three red, with Dublin full-back Eoghan O’Donnell and Wexford duo Shaun Murphy and Conor McDonald getting their marching orders.

O’Donnell and Murphy were both dismissed with two yellows while, as previously stated, Wexford sub McDonald received a straight red card shortly after coming on.

johnny-murphy-shows-conor-mcdonald-a-red-card Wexford's Conor McDonald after getting a red card. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

But it wasn’t just the accumulation of cards that appeared to leave both sets of spectators feeling disgruntled. The opening half featured several frees, with over half of the scores coming from dead ball situations.

Dublin’s free-taker Ryan had plenty of joy from his attempts at the posts while Chin wasn’t as fortunate, finishing with just one point from a free before he was called ashore on 47 minutes.

The regular disruptions to the flow of the game provoked hostile responses in the crowd, particularly when it wasn’t a particularly feisty affair. McDonald got a straight red card for catching Dublin defender Paddy Smyth late, although many argued that it was just a yellow card offence.

Referee Murphy’s strict approach was not popular with the fans. At one stage, the big screen in Croke Park showed Davy Fitzgerald give an irate reaction to a free being awarded against his charges.

His look of frustration seeemed to embody the general mood of those looking on in GAA headquarters.

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