Back to basics for Rebels as Brogan gets Dubs rocking
Allianz Football League Div 1
MEASURED in victory, calm in defeat, Cork manager Conor Counihan avoids extremes.
He did it again at Croke Park on Saturday night, although there was a distinct edge to his assessment of a game where Cork suffered a serious defensive collapse which Dublin exploited to the maximum.
"We have to work on our work ethic and get back to basics.
"If people are happy with what they've done, then we have a problem. I'd like to think we haven't. Lads will be disappointed when they look back on that performance," he said.
One suspects that Counihan will deliver his message somewhat more forcefully this week, probably supported by video evidence which will make uncomfortable viewing for the squad.
Dublin divided their impressive haul evenly over the 70 minutes, scoring 2-5 in the first half before adding 1-8 in the second half. Cork also split their haul evenly, kicking 0-8 in each half.
A 16-point total would win most games at this time of year, but while Cork made an impressive deposit, they carelessly leaked their pin number to Dublin, who kept returning to make handsome with-drawals.
Nine Dublin players scored as they took the total for their opening two league games to 5-25. Tomas Quinn, Kevin McManamon and Barry Cahill, who was impressive as a midfield replacement for Michael Darragh Macauley (a late withdrawal due to what Pat Gilroy described as a problem with his digestive system which affected his breathing), all scored goals, while the points flowed at a productive rate too.
Bernard Brogan managed just two points from open play (he also pointed four frees), but was involved in the skilful manufacture of all three goals, while regularly luring defenders down channels which created opportunities for his colleagues.
Both sides enjoyed plenty of room in the wide open spaces of Croke Park and, with the marking, tracking and general tempo of the game some way short of what transpires in summer, it was clear from early on that it was going to be a high-scoring affair.
"When you're playing in Croke Park and fitness isn't at championship levels, it tends to be an open game because there's more space," said Gilroy, who will have been delighted with the sense of enterprise which characterised Dublin's play for much of the way.
Brogan's deft flick played Quinn in for Dublin's first goal in the 20th minute and McManamon, who played a huge amount of ball in the first half, in particular, maintained his impressive goal rate off a Brogan pass in the 23rd minute.
Dublin led by 2-5 to 0-8 at the interval, a lead made possible by Stephen Cluxton's excellent block from Pearse O'Neill in the 34th minute.
Cluxton made another fine save from Daniel Goulding at the three-quarter mark, and Paul Casey got in a vital charge-down near the end as Cork drove forward in search of a goal.
In terms of creating chances, Cork could be happy enough, but their finishing was poor -- they shot 11 wides.
"Someone said to me that we had 40 scoring attempts and converted 16 -- that's not good enough," said Counihan.
Neither was their tracking, once Dublin powered out of defence. That created pressure points further forward, leaving the Cork defence as the apparent culprits for the high concession rate, when in reality, their attackers hadn't worked hard enough to cut off the breaks at source.
Dublin half-backs Declan Lally (two) and James McCarthy scored three points, while midfielders Denis Bastick and Cahill contributed 1-1 between them, the latter's goal (with Brogan again the provider) coming in the 50th minute at a time when Cork had cut the deficit to a point.
Dublin stretched on, with Brogan kicking four unanswered points (three frees), setting Cork an intimidating target.
They chased it diligently enough, but without ever threatening to rein in Dublin, who took their total to 3-13 with a late point from Bryan Cullen.
Left half-back Lally was withdrawn after scoring his second point in the 43rd minute, having had difficulty in pure defensive terms with the powerful O'Neill.
Patrick Kelly also did well for Cork, while Daniel Goulding eventually warmed to the challenge and was at his most dangerous in the second half.
Dublin had committed themselves to not conceding scoreable frees to Goulding and Donncha O'Connor and did that exceptionally well, especially in the second half.
"We've been talking about this for the last six months. We knew it was something that we had to really work on. We were disappointed with the number we gave away in the first half. We talked about is as a group and made a big effort to give away less in the second half," said Gilroy.
Despite banking two more league points and boosting their scoring difference by six points, Gilroy sounded a warning note.
"We mixed the good with the bad again. We were lucky not to concede any goals -- Stephen's saves were exceptional," he said.
Indeed, they may have been the tie-breakers. Had Cork scored one goal, it might well have settled them into the sort of rhythm which steered them to All-Ireland glory last year.
Instead, they were frustrated by Cluxton's saves and grew increasingly wayward for long periods of the second half.
They were particularly flat between the 49th and 63rd minutes, during which they were outscored by 1-5 to 0-1. Counihan had plenty think about on the coach journey home after watching Dublin's greater drive set the agenda for long spells.
"Dublin were the hungrier side. They are well prepared and drilled -- they're going to be a major force again this year," he said.
As for Cork, he did find a few positives. "Some of the newer lads played well so it's not all bad news," he said.
Man of the match -- Bernard Brogan (Dublin)
Scorers -- Dublin: B Brogan 0-6 (4f), M Quinn 1-1, K McManamon, B Cahill 1-0 each, D Lally 0-2, D Bastick, D Connolly, J McCarthy, B Cullen 0-1 each. Cork: G Goulding 0-5 (1f, 1'45'), P Kelly, P O'Neill 0-3 each, D O'Connor 0-2 (1f), A Walsh, F Goold, D O'Sullivan 0-1 each.
Dublin -- S Cluxton 8; M Fitzsimons 7, S Murray 7, A Hubbard 7; P Casey 8, J McCarthy 7, D Lally 6; D Bastick 7, B Cahill 8; P Flynn 6, K McManamon 7, D Connolly 6; B Brogan 8, E O'Gara 6, T Quinn 7. Subs: D Nelson 6 for Lally (43), B Cullen 7 for Connolly (46), A Brogan 6 for O'Gara (55), P Andrews 6 for M Quinn (61), C Murphy 6 for Flynn (66).
Cork -- P O'Shea 5; R Carey 5, J O'Sullivan 5, M Shields 6; C O'Driscoll 6, P Kissane 5, D O'Sullivan 7; A O'Connor 6, A Walsh 7; P O'Neill 7, P Kelly 7, F Goold 5; D Goulding 7, C O'Neill 5, D O'Connor 5. Subs: N Murphy 6 for A O'Connor (46), C Sheehan 5 for Goold (56), F Lynch 6 for O'Neill (56), E Cotter 6 for O'Sullivan (64).
Ref -- D Coldrick (Meath)