Dublin's treble heaven as Cork implode again
Dublin 1-21 Cork 2-7 Allianz NFL Division 1 Final
The disappointment of last year's All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Donegal took a long time to dissipate around Dublin but it's very much in the dim and distant past now.
Instead, a new wave of well-founded optimism is flooding down the Liffey after Jim Gavin's menacing marauders won a third successive Division 1 title in Croke Park yesterday with an ease which nobody could have envisaged.
It means that Gavin has presided over six big successes (three League, two Leinster, one All-Ireland) from seven attempts over three seasons. By the end of September, it could well be eight from nine.
Predictably, they are favourites (6/4) to win the All-Ireland title, the pursuit of which will begin against Longford or Offaly on May 31.
Both camps were, no doubt, keeping a close watch on yesterday's game and will now be wondering how to go about setting themselves up for the massive test.
They certainly won't have picked anything up from Cork, who were so woefully bad that for the sake of their own sanity, all they can do is zap yesterday's collapse from the memory bank as quickly as possible.
However, worryingly for Cork, it was the second time in just over a year that they suffered a catastrophic power failure against Dublin in Croke Park, albeit in different circumstances.
They played very well for 40 minutes in last year's League semi-final before disintegrating once Dublin raised their game, whereas they were dismally inept all the way yesterday.
Here was a team that had recorded victories over Dublin, Monaghan, Kerry, Tyrone, Mayo and Donegal since the start of February, yet here it looked as if they were juniors masquerading as seniors.
Worse still, they played as if they had come together for the first time just before the game. And, most damning of all, they lacked spirit in the second half, when it was clear that they were heading for a serious defeat.
At the very least, one would have expected them to dig in for a damage-limitation effort, but instead they performed as if they couldn't wait to get out of Croke Park.
Goals from Mark Collins in the 48th minute and Daniel Goulding in the 69th minute took the wretched look off the scoreboard but it's highly unlikely that either would have been scored if the game had been tighter.
Dublin's concentration had lapsed a little as they saw red jerseys fading into the far distance in their rearview mirrors, allowing Cork to unpick defensive locks that had been the personification of security for so long.
Cork had two other goal chances, neither of which they converted. Brian Hurley's flicked effort flew wide in the fourth minute and second-half substitute Daniel Goulding hit the crossbar in the 38th minute.
Hurley's close call suggested that Dublin might have difficulty dealing with himself and Colm O'Neill, who were a two man full-forward line, while No. 14 Mark Collins continued on his travels.
The roving role for Collins has been part of Cork's approach to reinforcing their defence this season but it backfired badly yesterday. Philly McMahon tracked Collins around the pitch, often finding himself as an extra Dublin forward - a role he both enjoyed and exploited.
The Ballymun Kickhams defender scored a point in the first half and also found himself involved in some of Dublin's slick build-up work.
This added to the problems for Cork, who found it very hard to work the ball through to O'Neill and Hurley.
And when they did manage it, the Cork pair were closely marked by Rory O'Carroll and Jonny Cooper.
O'Carroll was forced off with a leg injury in the 26th minute and, following a shaky start, his replacement, Michael Fitzsimons, maintained the vigilance which made life so difficult for Cork.
With the Leesiders' attack and midfield clearly struggling, scores were always going to be difficult to come by. Still, it was a shocking indictment of Cork that they went 48 minutes without scoring from open play.
They finished with three scores (2-1) from open play, whereas Dublin hit 0-14 by a similar route. In addition, Dean Rock pointed seven frees for Dublin while Diarmuid Connolly slotted in a penalty goal just before half-time after Tomas Brady, a pre-match replacement for Paul Flynn, was fouled in the square.
Connolly had taken a heavy knock to the jaw from Jamie O'Sullivan in the fourth minute but it didn't affect the performance of the St Vincent's forward as he joined with Ciaran Kilkenny, Kevin McManamon, Bernard Brogan and Rock to make life a misery for the Cork defence.
Possibly unsighted, Armagh referee Padraig Hughes took no action against O'Sullivan but the Cork defender could still face the disciplinary authorities for what was a dangerous tackle. Connolly's penalty goal helped Dublin into a 1-9 to 0-5 half-time lead and they added an unanswered six points in the opening 12 minutes of the second half before Collins pounced for Cork's first goal.
Things changed little as Dublin maintained total control. There were times when they were able to pick each other out with long passes into space, which appeared to be no-go areas for red jerseys.
Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-10 (7f), C Kilkenny 0-3, D Connolly (1-0 (pen), P Andrews, B Brogan 0-2 each, K McManamon, T Brady, P McMahon, J McCaffrey 0-1 each. Cork: C O'Neill 0-6 (4f, 1'45'), D Goulding 1-0, M Collins 1-0, B Hurley 0-1 (f).
Dublin - S Cluxton 7; P McMahon 8, R O'Carroll 7, J Cooper 8; J McCarthy 7, C O'Sullivan 8, J McCaffrey 9; D Bastick 7, B Fenton 7; T Brady 7, C Kilkenny 8, D Connolly 8; D Rock 8, K McManamon 8, B Brogan 8. Subs: M Fitzsimons 7 for O'Carroll (26), P Andrews 7 for Brady (46), E O Conghaile 7 for Bastick (54), C Costello 6 for Connolly (58), J Small 6 for McMahon (62), D Daly for Fenton (64).
Cork - K O'Halloran 6; N Galvin 5, M Shields 6, J Loughrey 6; E Cadogan 5, J O'Sullivan 5, Tomas Clancy 5; C Dorman 5, F Goold 5; K O'Driscoll 5, J O'Rourke 5, C O'Driscoll 5; C O'Neill 6, M Collins 6, B Hurley 6. Subs: P Kerrigan 5 for Dorman (26), D Goulding 5 for O'Rourke (37), B O'Driscoll 5 for C O'Driscoll (50), D Og Hodnett 5 for O'Sullivan (52), J Hayes 5 for Collins (57), S Cronin 5 for Galvin (63).
Ref - P Hughes (Armagh)
Man of the match
Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)
A bundle of energy all day, his performance was in sharp contrast to the lethargy which left most of the Cork players looking as if they were wading in treacle. McCaffrey's forward runs were electrifying, regularly leaving red jerseys in his wake.
Cork were already in trouble when trailing by four points before their fate was sealed by Diarmuid Connolly's penalty goal just before half-time. A seven-point margin was always going to be too much for them.
Why were Cork so dismally bad? Dublin played well but it made very easy for them by Cork's glaring inefficiencies, including going 48 minutes before landing their first point from open play.
Nothing specific - more a case of Dublin's slick movement dominating everything.
Jamie O'Sullivan was very lucky to escape a red card for a bad foul on Diarmuid Connolly early. Perhaps Padraig Hughes was unsighted because had he seen it, he would surely have taken action. Otherwise, the referee had a good day.
What they said:
Jim Gavin (Dublin manager): "To keep them (Cork) such a low score from play was satisfying for the defence. And in attack, in the second half ,to score 12 from 14 shots is a very good return for our forwards and probably a reflection of the work they are doing on the training field.
Brian Cuthbert (Cork manager):
"From the throw-in to the end of the game, we just didn't perform. We were second best to everything and right now I can't take too many positives from the game. I'm just very, very disappointed. It was just a flat, poor performance."
Cork 6 (4 first half) Dublin 9 (8 first half)
Cork 23 (11) Dublin 23 (12)
Cork 0 Dublin 0
Cork 4 (M Shields 34, K O'Halloran 34, J Loughrey 56, J Hayes 57) Dublin 1 (P McMahon 41).
Dublin play Longford or Offaly in the Leinster Championship quarter-final on May 31; Cork play Clare or Limerick in the Munster Championship semi-final on June 14.