Gilroy relief as Dubs get off hook
Allianz Football League Div 1
The statistic might not mean much but, given Dublin's past difficulties with representatives of the province, it does say something about their prevailing mentality.
The Dublin players or management were probably not aware that this was a sixth successive competitive victory over Ulster opponents in just over 12 months.
Following on from the three league wins over Derry, Monaghan and Tyrone in last year's league and Armagh and Tyrone in the championship last summer, the sequence puts into some perspective the road they have travelled over the last season and a half.
This was a particularly poor Dublin performance in Clones but they won, condemning Monaghan to a third successive league defeat that they scarcely deserved.
When you record 12 wides and drop another seven shots into the grateful arms of the opposition goalkeeper, you are entitled to carry regrets around for a few days. And Monaghan will, as they gear up for a relegation battle.
But Dublin have been making a habit of absorbing the pressure when it comes and seeing it out, and here that trend continued.
Once again, the strength of their reserves was reflected in the quality of substitutions they made, with every one of the five making an impact, three of them getting on the scoreboard.
Twice they established reasonably healthy leads considering the heavy underfoot conditions and twice Monaghan pegged them back, but on both occasions the visitors were able to hold their nerve. From 0-6 to 0-1 ahead and cruising after 20 minutes, they went another 23 minutes without a score, allowing Monaghan to forge three points clear, with Conor McManus' goal giving them perfect impetus.
Dublin then hit seven unanswered points in a profitable 14-minute period that left them well placed heading into the fourth quarter. A fourth consecutive league win then looked a formality.
However, a second yellow card for Diarmuid Connolly had them on the back foot for the final 10 minutes or so, when they had to rely on Monaghan's continued profligacy and an element of kindness from referee Michael Duffy to see them home.
As Darren Hughes received treatment in injury-time for a neck injury that required a five-minute delay and removal by stretcher to hospital from where he was later released, the two rival managers, Pat Gilroy and Eamonn McEneaney, got together for a chat, the basis of which, after concern for Hughes was expressed, was the nature of the game.
"Pat said to me on the sideline that, in essence, they didn't deserve to win the game. But if you kick seven short and 12 wides, that tells its own story. We dominated the second half in all areas," said McEneaney afterwards.
Gilroy admitted there was an element of luck at play. "When we went down to 14 men we were really hanging on there for dear life at the end, but sure we'll take them."
Quite how Dublin found themselves involved in such a dogfight is something Gilroy and his analysts will seek to discover this week because after 20 minutes, they had found themselves a very comfortable gear.
Overnight snow had cleared off the St Tiernach's Park surface, which was slow, but Dublin moved impressively and with Denis Bastick and Barry Cahill dictating matters at midfield, they rolled forward with confidence.
In Eoghan O'Gara's absence, Connolly slotted into full-forward -- arguably his best position -- and profited with two early points off his left on Dublin's way to that 0-6 to 0-1 lead.
To Monaghan's credit they prevented further leakage with brave defending, no one more so that Kieran Duffy who, in addition to keeping a tight rein on Bernard Brogan, got down to deny Paul Flynn from close range.
At the other end, McManus always looked dangerous and it was his persistence in following up another Monaghan shot destined to drop short that led to the goal, as he connected with Paul Finlay's ebbing delivery ahead of Stephen Cluxton for the game's only goal on 23 minutes.
It changed the pattern of the game, making it the scrap that provided the home side with better terms of engagement. Gilroy noticed the change too.
"I think we were completely dominating the game, and we probably should have been 1-9 to 0-0 up. We had good opportunities, and we were very wasteful and we weren't clinical at all, in comparison to the other matches that we played," he said.
"I think when you do that at inter-county level, you leave yourself open to a team coming back at you. Teams won't lie down if they get the opportunity."
McManus picked off two further points and wasted other good opportunities as Monaghan took a 1-5 to 0-6 lead in at the break.
They began the second half well too, but the arrival of Alan Brogan and Bryan Cullen during the interval lifted Dublin and they ground their way back into contention.
The point that pushed them ahead was started and finished by another substitute, Dara Nelson, with a vital intervention from the oldest Brogan, who must now be due his seasonal start against Mayo next week.
Kevin McManamon switched inside to the full-forward line to link up with Alan Brogan and their presence there helped to turn the tide.
When Connolly was sent off Monaghan had closed the gap to three points through Christopher McGuinness and the cumulative total of 10 yellow cards had Gilroy baffled afterwards.
"I have to say, I can't understand why there were so many cards -- I didn't think that it was a dirty game. But I probably do understand it, the pressure that referees are under to apply the rules to the letter of the law. I suppose they're being forced to do it, and it's putting them under unnecessary pressure because that game didn't flow because of it."
McEneaney was pleased despite the waste and the feeling of points lost. "We might have been happy with a point but we have to take the positives out of today and the last few matches."
Man of the Match: Barry Cahill (Dublin)
Scorers -- Dublin: B Brogan 0-4 (3f), D Connolly 0-3, P Andrews, A Brogan, T Quinn, D Nelson, K McManamon, D Lally 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 1-2, P Finlay 0-3 (3f), C McGuinness, D Mone, M Downey, T Freeman 0-1 each.
Dublin -- S Cluxton 6; D Daly 7, S Murray 6, R O'Carroll 5; P Casey 6, G Brennan 6, D Lally 6; D Bastick 7, B Cahill 7; P Flynn 4, K McManamon 6, MD MacAuley 5; T Quinn 5, D Connolly 7, B Brogan 6. Subs: D Nelson 6 for Lally (29), B Cullen 6 for Flynn (h-t), A Brogan 7 for Quinn 6 (h-t), P Andrews 6 for Macauley 6 (43), P Brogan 5 for O'Carroll 6 (54).
Monaghan -- M Keogh 7; K Duffy 7, Darren Hughes 6, C Walshe 6; V Corey 6, D Mone 6, David Hughes 7; D Clerkin 6, N McAdam 5; J Turley 5, M Downey 6, D Morgan 4; C McGuinness 5, P Finlay 6, C McManus 7. Subs: T Freeman 6 for Turley 6 (55), D Freeman for Darren Hughes (70).
Ref -- M Duffy (Sligo).