Dublin showing the hurt without O'Carroll and McCaffrey
Published 09/03/2016 | 02:30
Dublin versus Cork taught us bits and pieces about both sides last Saturday.
You're loathe to make too many definitive statements after league games but the Cork footballers will have been sickened in the Croke Park dressing rooms that evening. They shed a seven point half-time lead before losing by four against Dublin.
It's not the first Croker second half choke in the league by Cork, though this time wasn't quite so galling as the semi-final from a couple of seasons ago. Back to the drawing board for the Cork management.
For Dublin this was a puzzling game. They were awful in that first half, lateral in their movement with the ball and lacking either the pace from deep to send runners through the Cork defence or the accuracy with their long balls to free their inside forwards.
Their midfield couldn't get a toe-hold and Cork were rampant. The main issue seemed to be a slightly lax attitude, this was a Cork team humiliated by Roscommon the previous week so maybe it was hard to get completely pumped on a cold, echoing Croker. Seven points down at half time is a fairly stark motivation.
So application was definitely a factor but it's clear too that the full back line was struggling throughout that first half. Johnny Cooper in particular defended like a half-back for the second Cork goal when Paul Kerrigan used his body like a seasoned forward to dunt Cooper out of his way. Whoever was picking up Peter Kelleher, Cork's new target man full forward, struggled for Dublin in that first half. Rory O'Carroll will be missed.
The other takeaway from the first half was that injecting pace to an attack struggling with massed ranks of the defence is important. Give the ball to Jack McCaffrey was a tried and tested tactic to stretch the field and create space. James McCarthy was excellent on the burst in the second half, Connolly's goal in the first came from direct running too but suddenly the obvious out to McCaffrey is gone. This won't be the same team as 2015.
Has it really levelled the playing field though, were there sighs of relief from managers right around the country when Jim Gavin confirmed on Setanta that Jack McCaffrey would be heading to Africa this summer?
Suddenly Dublin appear human. Monaghan and Cork have put down tape of how to frustrate them.