'Dublin need to be more ruthless - there's nothing wrong with taking a black card for the team'
Read Paul Curran every week in The Herald
It was another business like performance by Dublin last Saturday and although there was plenty of brilliance on display throughout the game, there is plenty to be working on before a semi-final against either Louth or Meath in a few weeks’ time.
Jim Gavin will be very happy the way his team started the game with two early goals from Dean Rock and Diarmuid Connolly and after that there was only going to be one outcome.
The first goal came straight from the throw-in with Brian Fenton winning it and delivering a long ball deep into the Laois defence and Dean Rock was able to gather on the end line and create an angle for himself.
The finish was superb. Laois needed to keep things tight for as long as possible to have any chance of getting anything out of this match, but they couldn’t stop a rampaging Dublin team, who were able to pick their passes without too much pressure being put on them.
In fairness to the Laois players, they stuck to their task and kicked some good scores before the break to keep the tie interesting, but far too often they were guilty of shooting from poor positions and with poor technique –and that only made things easier for the Dubs.
The other thing I couldn’t understand from a Laois perspective was their willingness to allow Stephen Cluxton to get his kick-outs away without putting pressure on them. This was the case even when Laois had the full complement of players on the pitch.
That, for me, is a recipe for disaster, but when John O’Loughlin was dismissed for an off-the-ball incident with Michael Darragh Macauley, their hand was forced and it was a case of limiting the damage by playing ultra-defensive.
O’Loughlin was a massive loss, but Laois did manage to battle until the end. After the break, they unexpectedly bagged a couple of goals of their own. This coincided with Dublin’s worst spell in the match and that will be something that Jim will look at this week.
Dublin defenders need to bring a little bit of ruthlessness into their game as there is nothing wrong with taking a black card for the team, at times.
Both Laois goals could have been stopped if the runner had been taken out of the play. This can be done with a little bit of cuteness and proper timing. It might not look much but the importance of stopping a team on the run cannot be overstated.
The two goals, along with a point from Ross Munnelly, narrowed the game to just six points with 20 minutes to go, but by that time the Laois players were running out of steam and Dublin were able to pick off their points to confirm a comfortable victory in the end.
In that period Diarmuid Connolly stood out with some sublime kick passing and a couple of outstanding points. He finished with the man of the match award, but was pushed all the way for that prize by Dean Rock, who kicked the same amount of scores from play as Connolly as well as managing to kick over all of his six free-kicks. The Dublin forward line is as good as we have ever had and with so many options on the bench, it is no wonder that those who are fortunate enough to start are all doing their best to bring their ‘A’ game.
There are days, of course, when you just don’t perform the way you would like to and from that point of view, both Bernard Brogan and Paul Mannion will be disappointed with their contribution. It wasn’t because of a lack of effort or work-rate, though.
Jim Gavin was able to bring in players with serious calibre– Cormac Costello, Eoghan O’Gara and Con O’Callaghan, who looks a great prospect.
It was great to see Eoghan making his comeback after suffering a season-missing injury last year. He received a huge ovation from the Dublin supporters and was straight into the thick of things, receiving a yellow card for a high tackle on Ross Munnelly. The knee is obviously perfect again and he will no doubt have a huge part to play in the rest of the Championship.
His Templeogue Synge Street colleague Denis Bastick proved again how important he is to this team with another very important extended cameo performance when he came on as a blood sub for Macauley.
He is a no-nonsense player who does the dirty work to perfection. There are not too many midfielders who are better at what he does.
Dublin are now up and running and will head back to Croke Park for a semi-final in three weeks.
They are in terrific condition physically and mentally look to have the appetite for the fight this year.
There are areas which need improving but the first game is all about the victory and that was achieved quite comfortably.
It was great to see so many Dublin supporters in Kilkenny and they were certainly in full voice.
I think Dublin should have at least one game out of Croke Park every year but at their opponents’ home ground rather than a neutral venue.
The Laois faithful did not travel to this game but one can see it from their side. This game should have been in Portlaoise or Aughrim, had Wicklow won, but that’s history now.
For Dublin, it’s win number one in what hopefully will be another season to remember.