Sport Gaelic Football

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Dublin shrug off slow start to crush Down

DUBLIN 1-15 DOWN 0-9

DAMIAN LAWLOR in Croke Park

Published 24/03/2013 | 05:00

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Down's Brendan McVeigh shields the ball from Paul Mannion during the Allianz Football League match in Croke Park.

IT may have been the coldest night March has produced and the lowest crowd the Allianz spring series has witnessed, but Dublin's dismissal of Down at headquarters was telling for a number of other reasons.

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IT may have been the coldest night March has produced and the lowest crowd the Allianz spring series has witnessed, but Dublin's dismissal of Down at headquarters was telling for a number of other reasons.

Firstly, it set the home side up for a place in the NFL semi-finals and put Down deeper in relegation trouble. Most importantly, however, the defensive displays of Johnny Cooper and Jack McCaffrey and the potential of Paul Mannion were huge positives for Jim Gavin as he continues to mould a side for championship action. The introduction of seasoned summer performer Michael Darragh Macauley, however, was also hugely significant. The team transformed dramatically when he came into the fray after 23 minutes and it was no coincidence that their industry picked up from there.

Down played with a stiff breeze from the off and put 13 men behind the ball to quickly build up a three-point lead. Their short, running game looked great at the start but as the game progressed, it was clear that it didn't suit the conditions.

Still, in the early exchanges Dublin were frustrated and hit some wild wides in a dismal display of shooting. By the break, however, Dublin, despite trailing by two, looked to have had the measure of their opponents. They tore at Down from the restart and Kevin McManamon's goal soon after the break put the Dubs in the driving seat.

There was no real let up from then. Down made a number of changes and Diarmuid Connolly's free-taking kept the Dubs ticking over. That swirling first-half wind slightly favoured Down and made it next to impossible to play good football, hence you had Connolly and rookie Mannion missing frees which they would normally convert in their sleep.

Dublin weren't doing much from open play either – in fact, it took them 28 minutes to register their first point from play, that from the boot of the reliable Bryan Cullen.

In the past we have critiqued Down for being too open but recently they have brought the blanket defence with them and last night they steadfastly deployed 13 men behind the ball. It frustrated the Dubs to a fair degree but gradually the visitors reverted deeper and deeper.

They preferred to soak up the pressure and break on the bounce and in fairness it yielded some nice early points from Mark Poland and Brendan McArdle. They also had a smashing goal chance through Conor Laverty after 15 minutes. He danced his way through the Dublin defence only to be judged to have overcarried.

With Down winning any midfield ball that came their way, Gavin whipped off Denis Bastick and brought on Macauley in his place after just 23 minutes.

The game had been in a serious lull by then and the small crowd of about 10,825 didn't have much to cheer about with no score coming for 15 minutes.

Gavin looked on as his largely untried side finally started making in-roads. With McManamon trying his heart out, they finally carved their way through to score points courtesy of Cullen, Cian O'Sullivan and Nicky Devereux.

Even though they hit eight first half wides to Down's none, they still trailed 0-7 to 0-5 at the interval.

The highlight of the half, without doubt, was McComiskey's sensational score after 32 minutes from just over the halfway line. It was a gem that glistened brightly in a pit of mediocrity.

The teams were level after 44 minutes when Connolly pointed a free and only a great save by Brendan McVeigh, not his first or his last, from Mannion saved their blushes.

Time and again Down strung a series of short passes together only to spill the ball on impact. It resulted in several turnovers.

The pivotal score of the game came from one of them and McManamon's goal duly sealed the issue. Dublin could afford to take Connolly off and shoot 12 wides to win pulling up.

Scorers – Dublin: P Mannion 0-5 (3f), D Connolly 0-4 (3f), K McManamon 1-0, P Andrews 0-2, B Cullen, C O'Sullivan, N Devereux, S Cluxton ('45') 0-1 each.

Down: D O'Hare (2f), M Poland (1f) 0-2 each, B McArdle, D O'Hare (f), K McKernan, P McComiskey, D Savage 0-1 each.

Dublin: S Cluxton; D Daly, J Cooper, K O'Brien; J McCaffrey, G Brennan, N Devereux; C O'Sullivan, D Bastick; C Dias, P Andrews, B Cullen; K McManamon, D Connolly, P Mannion. Subs: MD Macauley for D Bastick (23), S Carthy for C Dias (47), P Ryan for D Connolly (61), K Nolan for McCaffrey (65).

Down: B McVeigh; D Rooney, B McArdle, R Boyle; D Turley, K Quinn, D O'Hagan; P Turley, K McKernan; C Laverty, M Poland, P McComiskey; D O'Hare, A McConville, B Coulter. Subs: C Harrison for A McConville (30), D McKibbon for S Turley (50), K King for D Rooney (53), D Savage for M Poland (56), R Kelly for D O'Hare (60).

Referee: F Kelly (Longford)

Irish Independent

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