O’BYRNE CUP SF: Dublin 2-10 Wexford 0-8: AN UNREMARKABLE O’Byrne Cup match, played admittedly in remarkably clement weather given recent conditions, raised a number of talking points as Dublin eased past Wexford in the second half of yesterday’s meeting in Parnell Park.
The first outing for the teams under the new, experimental rules saw a couple of penalties taken from the revised distance two metres closer to goal but very few free-kicks awarded under the new dispensation of rewarding the mark for a clean catch.
If the idea is to encourage catching the impact was negligible with Dublin claiming the only three marks of the afternoon – one of which followed a Wexford kick-out that dropped into James Brogan’s arms – and both managers, Pat Gilroy and Jason Ryan said afterwards that they felt it slowed the game if anything, as did, they felt, the new restriction on the hand pass.
The other talking point was less general. Dublin introduced before the throw-in centrefielder Eamonn Fennell, currently in the middle of an intractable, year-long dispute over his proposed transfer to St Vincent’s to which his original club O’Toole’s have objected.
Despite the unresolved nature of this situation, Fennell played yesterday. Gilroy maintained that the player had been training with the team and therefore could line out. But it’s an issue that will need further clarification.
“It’s good to be back,” said Fennell, a games promotion officer with Naomh Fionnbarra in Cabra, after an industrious performance.
“All I ever wanted to do was play football. I work in the GAA. It’s my life and for a club to stop me playing is heartbreaking. All I ever wanted to do was play for Dublin and for some club to stop me – I don’t know how they could do it, especially a club like O’Toole’s who knew everything I went through.”
He also mentioned his friend Warren O’Connor, who was knifed to death after an incident at the weekend. “I just wanted to say that my thoughts are with his family and friends. It’s a sad loss and he was a good friend of mine. I played with Warren in O’Toole’s and in soccer as well. He just loved sport. I wanted to dedicate that game to him.”
The match was the usual January combination of wholehearted effort and less than practised application. Place kicking was particularly rusty. Dean Rock, son of 1983 Dublin All-Ireland winner Barney, belied his reputation with some haywire efforts and Wexford’s young Ben Brosnan, who impressed in general play, kicked six points including a free from the sideline, but missed a further five.
Second-half arrival Brendan McManamon made a big impact, kicking four points and earning Dublin’s first penalty, which Blaine Kelly expertly dispatched in the 44th minute. The Leinster champions controlled matters thereafter even if Wexford got the margin down to two points, 0-8 to 1-7 thanks to two points from Brosnan. Kevin McManamon sealed the issue in the 66th minute after being brought down by David Murphy.
There were also red cards for Dublin’s Eoghan O’Gara and Wexford’s Brian Malone.
Gilroy was pleased in the circumstances and praised his team’s hard work. “This time last year we’d 10 days of really good training behind us what with La Manga and everything else so we’re a good bit behind where we were last year,” he said. “We’ve certainly had four sessions that were cancelled and we’ve only been on an actual grass pitch once so far so it’s been hard but you just have to get on with it. It’s the same for everyone.”
His Wexford counterpart agreed. “We’ve done one field training session, in Enniscorthy last Thursday night. For us it was going to be an eye-opener to see what kind of appetite the guys had for the year ahead because last year was so tough. The new guys – Joey Wadding at the back, Daithi Waters midfield, Conor Carty wing back and Ben Brosnan in the forwards: I thought they were a real positive for us. I’m delighted knowing we’ve some fresh blood coming through.”
DUBLIN : S Cluxton; C McCormack, P Casey, P Conlon; J McCarthy, S Murray, D Daly; M McAuley (0-1), E Fennell; J Brogan, T Diamond, D Rock (0-2, one free); B Kelly (1-1, goal a penalty), E O’Gara (0-1), K McManamon (1-1, goal penalty). Subs: C Reilly for Cluxton (half-time), A Hubbard for Daly (half-time), B McManamon (half-time; 0-4, one free), S McGrath for Kelly (53 mins), S O’Shaughnessy for Diamond (58 mins).
WEXFORD : A Masterson; D Walsh, D Murphy, J Wadding; C Morris, A Doyle, C Carty; B Doyle, D Waters; B Malone (0-1), R Barry (0-1), K Kennedy; B Brosnan (0-6, four frees), D Kinsella, P Byrne. Subs: A Morrrissey for Kennedy (49 mins), N Murphy for Morris (56 mins), D Kehoe for Carty (56 mins), A Flynn for Doyle (63 mins).