Saturday 16 December 2017

Big guns return to shoot down gritty Cavan

Allianz League Division 1

It was business as usual for Dublin as they extended their unbeaten run in league and championship to 30 games, with many lessons learned by Cavan in their first Division 1 game for 13 years.

Dublin 0-18 Cavan 0-11

The clash between seasoned champions and ambitious arrivals at the top table was flagged as the opening round highlight and it didn't disappoint.

Granted, there was never a stage when it looked as if Dublin might lose, but Cavan's defiance was sufficiently competitive to suggest they will have some good days in this high-powered group.

Manager Mattie McGleenan left Kingspan Breffni Park with lots of positives to work on before next weekend's Round 2 clash with Monaghan, but was disappointed by the size of Dublin's win.

His team rose to many of the challenges with impressive maturity, but for all their energy and enthusiasm, in front of their excited supporters in the 16,331 crowd, they couldn't hope to bridge the gap in togetherness and cuteness between themselves and a Dublin squad operating at the peak of their powers.

Dublin were far from perfect, which was to be expected in their first competitive game of the season (the O'Byrne Cup was won with a back-up squad), but they have accumulated such vast reserves of craft and know-how that they know how to sort out problems calmly and efficiently.

Niall Scully's excellent form in the O'Byrne Cup earned him a start and he showed that he is well capable of performing at a higher level than he experienced throughout January.

As well as scoring two points from play, he also impressed in various moves and looks very much like a man who will add to Jim Gavin's selection options in attack.

Ciarán Kilkenny was as busy as ever all over the pitch, while James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey, back on duty after missing most of last year, also did well.

Bernard Brogan and Cian O'Sullivan may not be aboard for a few more weeks, but Gavin has so many players challenging each other for starting positions that the pursuit of a fifth successive league title will be driven by the high level of competitiveness within the group.

It took them a while to get everything aligned yesterday against opposition who were probably being empowered by the energy on the terraces.

Cavan led by 0-5 to 0-4 after 21 minutes, before Dublin kicked five unanswered points. That gave them a control they never subsequently relinquished.

They led by 0-10 to 0-7 at half-time, before winning the second-half by 0-8 to 0-4. Their winning margin should have been higher, but they were let down by poor shooting as their second-half wides tally eventually reached nine.

McGleenan had spoken before the game about how teams "are not going to beat Dublin playing 15 men inside the 45", but it didn't take long for Cavan to pack their defence.

They had 13 players inside their own 45 after just 90 seconds, which was the inevitable reality when facing a team with such immense power.

In fairness, Cavan tried to be expansive once they got possession, but there were also passages in the first-half where Seanie Johnston and Niall McDermott were the only players close to the Dublin goal.

Johnston, who scored three points from open play and who was unlucky with a few other attempts, tested the Dublin defence off limited supply. However, then winning enough ball to feed the inside men was always going to be a problem for Cavan.

Gavin confirmed that Tomás Brady will not be aboard the Dublin panel this year, having opted out for work and personal reasons.

Of course, all other counties would miss a player of his calibre a whole lot more, but then Dublin are blessed with so much riches that even a second-second string team would be competitive in Division 1.

As for Cavan, they did well enough on their return to the top flight, but will need to build on it quickly, starting against Monaghan next weekend.

Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, P McMahon, E Lowndes; J McCarthy 0-2, J Small, J McCaffrey 0-1; B Fenton 0-1, MD Macauley 0-1; J Whelan 0-1. C Kilkenny 0-1; N Scully 0-2; P Mannion, D Rock 0-7 (6f), K McManamon 0-1. Subs: C Costello 0-1f for McManamon (42), C Basquel for Whelan (46), E O'Gara for Mannion (55), D Byrne for Fitzsimons (58), C Reddin for Macauley (62), C McHugh for Rock (70).

Cavan: J Farrelly; K Brady, R Dunne, F Reilly; C Brady, C Moynagh, P Faulkner; K Clarke, J McCutcheon 0-1; D McVeety, G Smith 0-2f, M Reilly; N Clerkin, N McDermott 0-2, S Johnston 0-5 (2f). Subs: P O'Connor for McDermott (ht), S Murray for McCutcheon (ht), G McKiernan for Dunne (42), C Madden 0-1 for Moynagh (46), N McKiernan for Clerkin (61), S O'Rourke for C Madden (66).

Referee: P O'Sullivan (Kerry).

Fingal Independent

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