Elementary for Watson as Dublin sink Louth
Dublin 2-6 v Louth 0-8
THE previously unheralded Daniel Watson proved to be the match- winner for Jim Gavin's All-Ireland champions as the introduction of the substitute helped Dublin shrug off a determined Louth challenge in Parnell Park.
Watson has been seen in a Dublin jersey at this time of year before, but everything he touched last night turned to gold as he snaffled an impressive 2-1 in his 20-minute cameo to stake his claim for a spot in the league panel.
And while the second half proved enjoyable, the first-half entertainment reflected the desperate weather and yielded a total of just four points between the sides.
Louth came with a plan and deployed regular defender Gary Connolly in a sweeping role as the visitors looked to absorb Dublin pressure.
And for the large part it worked. Dublin created a few half chances, but wide followed wide in the early exchanges with Paul Hudson and Gary Sweeney all miscuing as Aidan O'Rourke's men applied significant pressure on the man in possession.
And while the Wee men looked solid defensively, they struggled up front as conditions played havoc with both sides.
The normally reliable Brian White managed four wides in the first half as Louth found themselves completely outnumbered, with the excellent Sean George and co in the home defence isolating White and Kevin Rogers.
It took a full 15 minutes to see a score in rain-soaked Parnell Park as Dublin were finally rewarded for their pressure when Ballymun's Jason Whelan curled over the opening score.
However, Louth stuck doggedly to their task. Their impressive work in the tackle saw Kevin Nolan push his shot wide when he had a sight of Shane McCoy's goal, while Kevin McManamon also did well to dance past some Louth defenders, but his shot from a narrow angle didn't go wide, instead spinning all the way out for a line ball. It was that sort of half.
Louth slowly got to grips with Dublin and enjoyed a purple patch. White finally got them off the mark with a free after the half hour mark and with the Wee men dominating possession for the remainder of the half, they rallied for two more points through Liam Shevlin.
Indeed, Shevlin could have goaled with his second score, but instead opted to fist over Sean Currie's pass from close range to leave the score 0-3 to 0-1 to the visitors at the break.
If the football was poor, there was at least some interest in Dublin's team selection. Bryan Cullen was named at centre-back and it's a position that Gavin will have to fill for the early rounds of the league, with Ger Brennan set to miss the opening forays due to his club commitments with St Vincent's.
Ciaran Kilkenny was also named to start, but he was replaced by Philly McMahon at centre-forward before throw-in, a role he has previously filled for Ballymun on occasion.
Kilkenny did, however, take his place on the bench having played a full 70 minutes against Westmeath last weekend.
Thankfully, the second half was much brighter affair with White's second score of the day sparking a response from Dublin.
Shane Carthy weaved through the maze of Louth body's to cut the gap to two again, before we saw the game's first black card when Darragh Nelson was sent to the dug out for appearing to throw Stephen Campbell to the ground.
Paul Hudson missed a kickable free early in the second half, but he soon became Dublin's most important player, reeling off two scores on the bounce to cut the gap to the minimum. He then tapped over a placed ball to level the game with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Dublin were completely dominant now and the withdrawal of Louth's most influential player, White, coincided with Dublin's breakthrough score.
McMahon found supersub Watson with a superb pass and the St Anne's, Bohernabreena forward finished coolly past McCoy.
Watson's next touch saw him boom over another score to put Dublin four to the good.
Louth rallied with a couple more scores, but this was Watson's night as he raised his second green flag of the game to send the Dubs into this weekend's clash with DCU in charge of their own fate in the group.
SCORERS -- Dublin: D Watson 2-1, P Hudson 0-3 (1f), S Carthy, J Whelan. Louth: B White 0-3 (1f), L Shevlin 0-2, D Crilly, (1 45), D Byrne, S Campbell 0-1 each.
Dublin -- S Currie; D Nelson, S George, M Fitzsimons; C Guckian, B Cullen, K Nolan; D O'Mahony, S Carthy; C Walsh, P McMahon, J Whelan; P Hudson, K McManamon, G Sweeney. Subs: J Cooper for Nolan (h-t), E Fanning for Guckian (47), L Fletcher for Nelson (43, BC), N McGovern for Walsh (47), D Watson for Sweeney (52), C Mullins for Cullen (64),
Louth -- S McCoy; P Rath, D Finnegan, K McLoughlin; D O'Hanlon, D Crilly, L Shevlin; P Keenan, R Brodigan; D Byrne, G Connolly, B Duffy; S Campbell, B White, K Rogers. Subs: D Maguire for O'Hanlon (47), C Doyle for Rogers (47), P Sheelan for Brodigan (47), D O'Connell for White (59).
Ref -- F Kelly (Longford)