LEINSTER SFC SEMI-FINAL
Sunday: Dublin v Wexford, Croke Park, 4pm, (R Hickey Clare)
Latest from the medics and the management…Pat Gilroy has decided not to tamper with a winning formula, naming an unchanged Dublin side from the one that defeated Louth in the opening round. Wexford welcome back captain David Murphy and leading attacker Ciaran Lyng into their team. Murphy has recovered from an infection in his leg that ruled him out of the two-game saga with Longford to take his place at centre-back in a move that necessitates the switch of Brian Malone to corner-back with Niall Murphy making way. Lyng, who was also sidelined through injury for the last game, replaces PJ Banville in attack while Paddy Byrne also comes into the forward line at the expenses of Conor Carty.
DUBLIN SF: Stephen Cluxton (Parnells); Philly McMahon (Ballymun Kickhams), Rory O’Carroll (Kilmacud Crokes), M Fitzsimons (Cuala); James McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams), Ger Brennan (St Vincent’s), K Nolan (Kilmacud Crokes); Denis Bastick (Templeogue Synge Street), Eamonn Fennell (St Vincent’s); Brian Cullen (Skerries Harps), Alan Brogan (St Oliver Plunkett’s-Eoghan Ruadh), Paul Flynn (Fingallian’s); Diarmuid Connolly (St Vincent’s), Kevin McMenamon (St Jude’s), Bernard Brogan (St Oliver Plunkett’s-Eoghan Ruadh).
WEXFORD SF: Anthony Masterson (Castletown); Rob Tierney (Glynn-Barntown), Graeme Molloy (St James), Brian Malone (Shelmaliers); Adrian Flynn (Gusserane), David Murphy (Rosslare), Lee Chin (Sarsfields); Daithi Waters (St Martin’s), Rory Quinlivan (Parnells); Paddy Byrne (Kilmore), Shane Roche (Geraldine O’Hanrahan’s), Ben Brosnan (Bannow); Ciaran Lyng (St Martin’s), Eric Bradley (Adamstown), Redmond Barry (St Anne’s).
Checking the odds… Dublin are overwhelming favourites at 1/10 with Wexford priced at 7/1. The handicap has Dublin (-7) at evens.
Clues from the form guide…Dublin will have learnt little from their destruction of Louth in the opening round as their opponents produced an extremely weak challenge. However it was still encouraging to see them lay down a statement of intent and prove their is still hunger in this squad after last September’s heroics. Bernard Brogan’s return to action and his lethal form as he scythed through the Wee County rearguard was another heart-warming sight for Dublin fans. Wexford are more battle-hardened of late following their recent trilogy with Longford. The Division 3 league final loss in April was defined by their lethargic and slow start but they at least recovered manfully in the second-half of that game. And in their two-game quarter-final championship saga with Longford, Wexford’s performance graph continued to rise. They survived a gut-check in those ties and must have been boosted to emerge with a one-point win in the replay.
The game breakers are…Dublin were in sparkling form against Louth but the question is how will they respond to a sterner examination? A midfield partnership that continues to exist without Michael Darragh MacAuley is another area that will be under the spotlight with Daithi Waters and Rory Quinlivan forming a resolute duo in that sector for Wexford. Jason Ryan has devised clever plans in recent seasons to stifle Dublin’s attack and it will be interesting to see if he can repeat that feat. But there is still huge scoring potential in that forward line with Alan Brogan, Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan on board. And it’s going to be a tall order for Wexford to keep all of them quiet. Having captain David Murphy back at the core of their defence is a help as he will knit their rearguard together. While Ciaran Lyng being present in attack does mean they have a forward who can create some magic that leads to a flurry of scores.
Gazing into the crystal ball…Wexford have stored up plenty regrets from their recent meetings with Dublin, the extra-time defeat in the Leinster championship two years ago and the agonising loss in last year’s provincial decider as the honours eluded them. Whether they can use those setbacks as motivation to propel themselves over the line is a moot point. They have been coming extremely close and for this group of players and management a Leinster title is their Holy Grail. But it’s not clear whether they have bridged the gap and can topple a heavyweight to reach the decider. The sense remains that if Dublin’s application and attitude are at a high standard, they can push on to a Leinster final.