How is the race to advance from Leinster shaping up after yesterday’s late hurling drama?

MATTIE KENNY WAS unequivocal after the game: Dublin will need to beat Carlow and Galway in their final two Leinster SHC ties to seal progression to the All-Ireland series. 

Yesterday’s draw with Wexford – where they forfeited a five-point lead on 55 minutes and needed Sean Moran’s 75th minute goal to force a share of the spoils – meant Dublin still have their faith in their own hands.

They’ll be expected to account for Carlow on 2 June but nothing will come easy away to Colm Bonnar’s side, who have targetted this game from the outset as their best chance of staying up in Leinster. 

Win in Netwatch Cullen Park and Dublin will have a weekend off before hosting Kenny’s native Galway in Parnell Park with their season on the line.

Wexford took third place in the province with four points in 2018 after wins over Dublin and Offaly, but Kenny believes five points will be required this time around. 

“We’ll definitely need two wins,” he said. “At least it’s in our own hands but nothing less than two wins will get us through.

“We’d have preferred to have gotten the two points there today. But it’s still in our hands. We have a difficult away trip to Carlow in two weeks time. So we’ve got to go down there and work hard for a result down there.

“And if we manage to get a result there, it will come down to the last result here in Parnell Park at home. Look, we’re still in the championship. It’s still in our own hands. And with 39 minutes gone (in the second-half), we’d have taken that.”

Kilkenny and Galway are expected to contest the Leinster final, but Davy Fitzgerald’s side will fancy their chances of upsetting the applecart and making their first decider since 2017.

Brian Cody’s team have started the campaign well with two victories despite being without a number of injured players, but they still have a tricky home tie against Galway and an away clash with Wexford to come.

One victory from their final two games would be enough for Kilkenny to secure a place in the provincial final, while a draw should guarantee third.

It’s been difficult to make a read on Micheal Donoghue’s outfit so far this season, with a six-point win over Carlow achieved in their only outing of the championship so far.

Reintegrating Joseph Cooney and Johnny Glynn should add considerable firepower to the 2017 All-Ireland champions’ attack, but their form has been patchy this year. 

If Wexford were to beat Galway in Salthill next weekend, they’d move into the hunt for a top-two place, with the Tribesmen and Dublin most likely left fighting it out for the third spot.

Should the Joe Canning-less Galway win as expected, it will leave themselves and Kilkenny in control of the top two positions.

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The Wexford team stand for the National Anthem in Parnell Park.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The battle for third would then come down to the final day where Wexford host the Cats and Dublin are at home to Galway. That’s presuming both Dublin and Wexford account for Carlow, who will be battling to avoid fatigue.

The Barrowsiders gave reasonably strong performances in the opening two rounds against Galway and Kilkenny, but their smaller panel means it will be harder to maintain that form as the summer goes on.

In 2018, Offaly’s best two displays arrived in their opening games where they lost to Galway by 12 and Kilkenny by nine. They then imploded with a 24-point pummeling to Wexford and a 17-point beating to the Dubs in the final two rounds when bodies were weary and their chance of progression was already over.

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A win and a draw for Dublin could potentially leave them in the running for third, provided Wexford lose to both Galway and Kilkenny.

Rather than dealing in permutations, Kenny’s side will go into the last two round-robin games in knock-out mode. Only victories will guarantee their summer carries on past the middle of June. 

One thing they must address is their habit of letting second-half leads slip in the championship. They shipped defeats to Kilkenny, Galway and Wexford last summer after leading late in all three games, and saw a five-point advantage turn to dust in Nowlan Park the weekend before last and again on Sunday.

But Kenny believes Moran’s late equalising goal against Wexford will lift the spirits of his team as they stared down the barrel of another heart-breaking defeat.

“I think it was hugely important. Because rightly or wrongly, the character of the side has been questioned a number of times. So to come out of today with something, I think will bring on this group a lot.

“We showed below in Nowlan Park for 40 minutes the quality of hurling this side can play. They showed again today the quality of hurling they can play. But we’ve just got to work on getting that consistency for 75, 76 minutes.

“But I think today’s result will stand to us going forward.”

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