Brogan shows no mercy as defending champions make perfect start to new campaign
Published 04/06/2012 | 05:00
LOUTH were always stretching optimism to believe they could seriously discommode Dublin but there were enough grounds to suggest they would remain competitive for much of the way.
Instead, they were whipped into submission early on, leaving them exposed to a long, lonely afternoon in an unseasonably cold Croke Park.
It must have felt like an eternity for the Louth players who had their breath taken away by the relentless blue wave which crashed over them.
Louth scored first when Darren Clarke pointed a free in the opening minute, but that was as good as it got for them on a day when their limitations were ruthlessly exploited to such a degree that manager Peter Fitzpatrick later described Dublin as "a machine".
From a Louth perspective, that was a fair assessment but Dublin's smooth take-off to the defence of their Leinster and All-Ireland titles has to be viewed in the context of an opposition which was hopelessly ill-equipped for the scale of the challenge which awaited them.
In truth, Dublin could have had five more goals but inaccurate finishing and some good saves from Louth goalkeeper Neil Gallagher kept their return down. Not that it mattered because they also scored 0-11 in each half, accompanied by two first-half goals from Bernard Brogan.
All except 0-3 of Dublin's impressive yield were from play, whereas 0-8 of Louth's total came from placed balls. Midfielder Ronan Carroll, wing-back Ray Finnegan and substitute JP Rooney all kicked points, which meant that Adrian Reid's point in the 54th minute was the only score returned from open play by Louth's starting forward line.
It underlined their inability to make any sort of progress against a well-organised Dublin defence which has had tougher tests in training games. It looked briefly early on as if the Louth attack might raise serious questions but once Adrian Reid missed a goal opportunity in the sixth minute, the dynamic changed dramatically.
Credit Stephen Cluxton with a good save but Reid made it a whole lot easier than it should have been with a shot which was far too close to the goalkeeper.
From there on, Dublin took complete control and while their possession dominance wasn't reflected in their 0-8 to 0-3 advantage after 30 minutes, it was still abundantly clear that they were playing to a much faster beat than Louth.
Unable to bring the necessary physicality to disrupt Dublin, Louth were living precariously on borrowed time, which eventually ran out in the run-up to the interval when Dublin scored 2-3 without replay.
Dublin's first goal, scored by Bernard Brogan in the 34th minute, summed up Louth's wretched day.
Deep in attack, an attempted shot at goal by Paddy Keenan was charged down, the ball rebounding to Kevin McManamon, who set off on one of his many powerful runs before feeding Alan Brogan. His younger brother had slipped free of his marker, took Alan's pass in his stride and carefully dispatched the ball to the net.
Brogan pounced again in stoppage time, clipping the ball to the Louth net after it broke loose, following two blocks on the line.
The late power surge left Dublin, who had played with the wind, leading by 2-11 to 0-3 at half-time.
Having ensured a 14th successive championship win over Louth, it was inevitable that Dublin's tempo would drop in the second half. They still managed to win it (0-11 to 0-9) but fell into some bad habits which concerned Pat Gilroy.
Dublin conceded 15 frees in the second half (compared to Louth's six), four of which were converted into points by Clarke.
"I wasn't happy with that. It's an area we will have to work on," said Gilroy.
"We weren't under pressure today and yet we conceded quite a lot of easy frees. I don't think our technique was good. We weren't that good at executing simple plays. When we had a guy clogged up, we were lazy and pulled or left the hand in a bit too long."
There may have been concentration issues too for Dublin in the second half as they went through the motions, knowing that there wasn't the slightest possibility of a significant Louth revival.
Carroll's 45th-minute point was Louth's first from open play in the game, by which stage the defending All-Ireland champions had 2-14 on the board.
And so it rumbled on, with Dublin so far ahead that they could already start thinking ahead to the semi-final on July 1, while the men from the Wee County will be left wondering how they can re-energise themselves for the All-Ireland qualifiers.
It was all so comfortable for Dublin, who started with 12 of their All-Ireland-winning team after Denis Bastick was drafted in at midfield to replace Michael Darragh Macauley, who was ruled out with a damaged midriff, sustained in a bicycle fall during the week.
Bernard Brogan, back on duty for the first time since last year's All-Ireland final, marked his return with a 2-5 yield but had a strong challenger for Man of the Match in Kevin McManamon whose took his busy, bustling style to the four corners of Croke Park.
His willingness to take on opponents is a major plus for Dublin and, coupled with his accurate passing, makes it very difficult for opponents to restrict his influence.
Alan Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly also looked sharp, while Paul Flynn kicked the best point of the day in the 32nd minute, firing over from near the sideline after sweeping onto a misdirected Louth pass.
Many of Dublin's scores had their origin in sloppy Louth play on a day when they simply weren't up to the task. Dublin, in contrast, got their game working early, built on it carefully and had victory secured by half-time.
Their 16-point win was the largest over Louth for 33 years and completed a weekend in which Dublin's football and hurlers won two championship games by a total of 38 points.
That's quite a quite a way to reach two Leinster semi-finals.
Scorers -- Dublin: B Brogan 2-5 (0-1f), D Connolly, K McManamon 0-3 each, S Cluxton (2 '45s'), A Brogan, C Dias, B Cullen, P Flynn 0-2 each, D Bastick 0-1. Louth: D Clarke 0-8 (7f, 1 lineball), R Carroll, A Reid, R Finnegan, JP Rooney 0-1 each.
Dublin -- S Cluxton 7; P McMahon 7, R O'Carroll 7, M Fitzsimons 7; J McCarthy 8, G Brennan 7, K Nolan 7; E Fennell 7, D Bastick 7; P Flynn 7, K McManamon 9, B Cullen 7; D Connolly 8, A Brogan 8, B Brogan 9. Subs: C Dias 7 for Cullen (h-t), E O'Gara 5 for Flynn (50), R McConnell 6 for Fennell (57), J Cooper 6 for McMahon (57), P Casey for Brennan (65).
Louth -- N Gallagher 7; P Rath 5, D Finnegan 5, G Hoey 5; R Finnegan 6, J Carr 5, D Byrne 5; P Keenan 6, R Carroll 6; D Crilly 5, M Brennan 5, A Reid 5; D Maguire 5, J McEneaney 5, D Clarke 6. Subs: A McDonnell 5 for McEneaney (h-t), R Greene 5 for D Finnegan (h-t), L Shevlin 5 for Carr (53), JP Rooney 7 for Brennan (53), D Reid for Reid (71).
Ref -- E Kinsella (Laois)