Dean Rock leads the way in Dublin victory as Jack McCaffrey returns
DUBLIN 0-18 CAVAN 0-11
AN extended hibernation hasn't done the All-Ireland football champions any harm, if today's evidence at a noisy Kingspan Breffni Park is to be believed.
Jim Gavin's front-line Dublin troops had been kept in cold storage for the entirety of the O'Byrne Cup, but they re-emerged into the public light for their Allianz FL Division 1 opener against newly promoted Cavan.
And the gulf in class eventually told as the visitors eased to a seven-point victory, to the delight of the Sky Blue masses in a staggering attendance of 16,331.
The hosts began in sprightly fashion but, after a finely balanced first quarter, slipped further and further adrift of the Dubs. James McCarthy led the charge with a dominant wing-back display crowned by two second half points although Niall Scully, who also landed a brace from half-forward, took the gong as TG4's Man of the Match.
Gavin had announced a team on Saturday including ten of the 15 players who started last October's All-Ireland replay against Mayo.
His bench, meanwhile, was almost entirely populated by Sky Blue wannabes who had staked a claim during the victorious O'Byrne Cup campaign overseen by stand-in boss Paul Clarke.
The two exceptions were Darren Daly and the prodigal Jack McCaffrey – and the latter was one of three late Dublin changes announced just before the start, delayed 15 minutes by traffic congestion caused by a massive turnout.
McCaffrey, making his Sky Blue return after last year's sabbatical, was parachuted into the defence while Scully (their star performer in January) and Jason Whelan were called into the half-forward line.
The trio making way were David Byrne, Eoghan O'Gara and Cormac Costello.
Both sides changed jerseys to prevent a colour clash, the hosts sporting white and Dublin a darker hue of navy blue.
The momentum swayed back and forth during an enterprising first quarter. Seánie Johnston opened the scoring inside 15 seconds, and the same player's sublime point from the left touchline edged Cavan back ahead – 0-5 to 0-4 – after 20 minutes.
But then Dublin ignited with five unanswered points over the next ten minutes, via Whelan, Ciarán Kilkenny, Scully, McCaffrey and a Dean Rock free.
Cavan stopped the rot via a towering Gerard Smith effort and a Niall McDermott free, but Rock's fourth converted free left the visitors well positioned at the break, leading 0-10 to 0-7. Within 11 minutes they had doubled their lead as Cavan's challenge fizzled out.
SCORERS - Dublin: D Rock 0-7 (6f), N Scully, J McCarthy 0-2 each, K McManamon, MD Macauley, J Whelan, C Kilkenny, J McCaffrey, B Fenton, C Costello (f) 0-1 each.
Cavan: S Johnston 0-5 (2f), N McDermott (2f), G Smith 0-2 each, J McCutcheon, C Madden 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, P McMahon, E Lowndes; J McCarthy, J Small, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, MD Macauley; J Whelan, C Kilkenny, N Scully; P Mannion, D Rock, K McManamon. Subs: C Costello for McManamon (42), C Basquel for Whelan (46), E O'Gara for Mannion (56), D Byrne for Fitzsimons (59), C Reddin for Macauley (62), C McHugh for Rock (70).
CAVAN: J Farrelly; P Faulkner, R Dunne, F Reilly; C Brady, K Brady, C Moynagh; K Clarke, J McCutcheon; M Reilly, D McVeety, G Smith; N Clerkin, N McDermott, S Johnston. Subs: S Murray for McCutcheon (ht), P O'Connor for McDermott (ht), G McKiernan for Dunne (42), C Madden for Moynagh (47), N McKiernan for Clerkin (61), S O'Rourke for Madden (66).
REF: P O'Sullivan (Kerry).