Eugene McGee: O'Gara makes his mark but Dubs still lack consistency
Published 26/07/2010 | 05:00
WE had a rather strange situation on Saturday when a large section of Hill 16 remained closed -- despite the fact that Dublin were playing a game to earn a spot in the last eight of the All-Ireland senior football championship.
You would think it was a long time since Dublin had won back-to-back SFC matches as the vast throng of casual supporters stayed away for the clash with Louth. Obviously, the 'tourists' have other things to be doing -- but for the large number of dedicated Dubs, it must have been a satisfying afternoon's work.
And so, too, it must have been for Pat Gilroy, as Dublin his team disposed of the 'real' Leinster champions by the 30th minute, when they led Louth by 1-6 to 0-1.
When Eoghan O'Gara scored his second goal just before half-time, Louth's goose was totally cooked and despite a spirited second- half rally, the result was never in doubt. But to their credit, Louth did restore pride in the second half and actually outscored Dublin by eight points to seven.
That particular statistic will be one of several worrying aspects for Dublin followers on a day when victory was achieved with a bit of style in the first half, but in a very laborious manner after that.
The uncertainty in the formation of the Dublin side in recent months was largely removed by the latest team selection and even the presence of two seasoned defenders, Bryan Cullen and David Henry, in the forwards on this occasion, at least strengthened the overall performance, with Cullen scoring three excellent points and Henry doing his job as defensive sweeper very well.
This latest Dublin outing was their most pleasing of the five championship games to date, without giving the impression that they are serious All-Ireland contenders this year -- which they certainly are not.
O'Gara made the biggest impression with two fine individual goals in the first half and old-timers might even be making comparisons with a previous bustling full-forward, Jimmy Keaveney.
However, because of the ups and downs of the team as a whole and individual Dublin players from one match to another this year, caution must be observed regarding O'Gara and the rest.
Typical of this variation in performance over just seven days was the contribution of Bernard Brogan, who burned up Croke Park last Saturday week, but scored just a single point from play against Louth on Saturday.
This highlights the biggest problem the manager has -- the lack of consistency even from game to game. But those Dublin followers who know their football are rapidly acquiring the virtue of patience and probably regard the team's progress to date as a small start to possible greatness. But there are many caveats to this assessment too.
Louth's dramatic year in football therefore ended in tears -- literally, as we saw after Saturday's game. Their cardinal mistake was not to be ready to take it to the Dubs from the throw-in. They absolutely needed to start with a bang, but failed dismally in this regard and, indeed, played poorly all through the first half, by the end of which they knew their fate.
It's a sad end to the campaign for them as they head back into Division 3 next February and it will require a massive effort to get the show back on the road in 2011. Nevertheless, Louth and their fans had a dream summer, until the Leinster final nightmare struck them like a thunderbolt.
Many sections of the GAA have serious questions to answer -- but never will of course -- regarding the appointment of the referee for the Meath v Louth game and the total failure of any official of the Leinster Council -- the controlling body of the fixture -- to make one word of public comment about the events at the end of the game.
The GAA are masters of the closed mouth when it suits them -- as in this instance -- but they left a very sour taste with ordinary GAA people around Ireland.