McCarthy stakes claim as Dublin issue statement of intent
IT doesn't look like the Dublin footballers have any intention of resting on all those laurels they earned in 2011.
They were without many of their front-line players on Saturday night against UCD in the O'Byrne Cup quarter-final, and their play was understandably rusty at times, but you couldn't but admire their attitude and application.
Not only were they bigger, stronger and better footballers than the students, they wanted it more too and flung themselves into every physical collision with the wholesome commitment of men whose ambition hasn't been sated by last year's All-Ireland Championship success.
"We're getting back into the swing of things properly now," said Dublin manager Pat Gilroy afterwards.
"Our shooting and our ball-handling wasn't great, but you'd expect that at this time of the year. But the effort and the application was great.
"We conceded more than I would have liked, but all things considered I was happy enough with the performance."
This match wasn't too old before you knew that Dublin would inevitably coast to a fairly comfortable victory. Their errant shooting kept UCD in the game in the early stages, but the longer the match progressed, the firmer a grip they took on proceedings.
The result was never in doubt after Kevin McManamon slalomed his way through the UCD defence and smashed the ball to the back of the net for a goal that put Dublin 1-9 to 0-5 ahead.
The hero of last year's All-Ireland final clearly hasn't lost his touch, and he played with the ceaseless industry of a man keen to establish himself as a first-choice pick in 2012 and leave the super-sub duties to someone else.
Dublin added three more goals in the second half through Bryan Cullen, Diarmuid Connolly and Sean Murray, but even more eye-catching was the brace of sweet points that talented newcomer Micheal McCarthy scored to go with the two he registered in the first half.
It's too early in the year to make any definitive judgment on what impact he'll make as the season progresses, but he plays with a lovely languid style and can kick accurately off either foot, so he's definitely one to watch.
"Micheal was in with us last summer and played very well with his club last year," said Gilroy. "He's a good young fella and he applies himself well. It's important to have a bit of new blood like that coming into the set-up."
The ease with which Dublin won on Saturday night was all the more impressive considering their many injury absentees, and Gilroy revealed after the match that Bernard and Alan Brogan, Barry Cahill, Denis Bastick and Paul Griffin won't be ready for the opening NFL match against Kerry.
But even though they're missing some key men and don't have as much to prove this year as last, the Dublin manager is adamant that his team will be going all-out to win both the O'Byrne Cup and league before doing all they can to successfully defend their All-Ireland title.
"You get so few games that you have to try to get the best out of yourself every time you do play," said Gilroy. "You might play six or seven in the championship and six or seven in the league, so that's not a whole lot of competitive games to try things in.
"We've prepared this year for the league just like we have for the last three. We're trying to be in the best shape we can for it. By the middle of March we'll know how we're going, but we'll be taking the league very seriously."
Scorers -- Dublin: T Quinn (2f, 1 '45'), M McCarthy (1f) 0-5 each, K McManamon 1-1, D Connolly, B Cullen, S Murray all 1-0, E Fennell, R McConnell, P Andrews 0-1 each. UCD: D Kingston 0-4 (2f), N Kilroy 0-3, C Dias, L Smith, A Giles, K Dyas D Larkin 0-1 each.
DUBLIN -- S Supple; C O'Sullivan, M Fitzsimons, D Daly; D Byrne, G Brennan, K Connolly; E Fennell, R McConnell; B Cullen, K McManamon, P Brogan; P Andrews, T Quinn, M McCarthy. Subs: D Connolly for Quinn (h-t) S Murray for Brogan (44), G McIntyre for Cullen (55), D Treanor for O'Sullivan (55), R Corcoran for Andrews (56).
UCD -- M McGinley; M Furlong, C McConnell, J Hayes; C Carty, R O'Carroll, S Redmond; D Kingston, C Murphy; C Dias, M O'Cochlain, K Dyas; N Kilroy, A Giles, L Smith. Subs: D Maguire for C Dias (23), D Larkin for Furlong (h-t) , L Cawley for Giles, M O'Regan for Smith (both 44), L Keaney for McConnell (52).
REF -- F Kelly (Longford).