Monday 19 March 2018

Star bench highlights changing of the guard

Dublin 1-19 Monaghan 0-12

Rory Kerr

It was a weekend when former Player of the Year Sean Cavanagh joined a select club of four when he joined the O'Se brothers and Stephen Cluxton on a record 88 championship appearances.

The latter would claim the outright lead a few hours later, although should Tyrone upset the odds by defeating Dublin in their mouth-watering semi-final clash on August 27th, the two will finish out the year on 90 appearances.

Of course this is stuff for historians and their ilk. For the two, it will be the furthest thing from their minds when Dublin and Tyrone renew old rivalries in just under three weeks' time.

Of course there are optics to be considered. Any fan entering Jones Road on match day will see the self-proclaimed 'King of the Hill' emblazoned on a hoarding overhead the train tracks which run parallel to Hill 16.

Bernard Brogan had a quiet day by his standards, although he might have helped himself to a goal, albeit at a time when Dublin had killed the game off as a contest. Brogan was one of four players from the 2014 team that triumphed over Monaghan at the same stage of the competition that came on in the second half.

Paul Flynn, making his first start of the championship this season, Eoghan O Gara and Michael Darragh Macauley were the other three. It is only three years on, but it was quite noticeable that it was a totally different six forward line that started on Sunday.

Admittedly, Diarmuid Connolly would have started were it not for his latest rush of blood to the head which led to a 12-week suspension. But slowly but surely there is a changing of the guard under Gavin.

The question would been asked is how Gavin would replace heavyweights like Flynn and Macauley heading into the new era, but little by little we are seeing a new template being put down.

Sunday's fare drew a full house for the first time this season, although in reality the stadium was half-empty long before Conor Lane had brought a halt to these proceedings, begging the question: do we really need a super eight series.

The consensus is that Mayo have gone to the well once too often and as such we are left with the big three of Dublin, Kerry and Tyrone, and for the foreseeable future its hard to see anyone breaking into that pack.

Sunday's two quarter-finals were perhaps evidence of that. The much talked-about 'cracker' between Armagh and Tyrone never materialised, while Dublin methodically wore down Monaghan in the first half.

By the time Dean Rock had fisted home a Paddy Andrews pass to open up a double-digits lead 10 minutes into the second half, the game was long over.

Admittedly Monaghan underperformed up front. The starting front two of Jack McCarron and Conor McManus were held scoreless for the entire duration of play and it was only following the introduction of Conor McCarthy that the Mourne men began to threaten.

Having come on a minute before the break, McCarthy would pick off two early points each side of a Paddy Andrews point to put eight between the sides.

Arguably the writing was already on the wall at that stage and Rock's goal would sound the death knell, but many asked why McCarthy, particularly given his fine return against Down in the round B qualifiers, didn't merit a start for the Scotstown man.

Certainly Monaghan looked toothless in the first half, with Micheal Fitzsimons, following his late lapse in the Leinster final when Kildare sneaked in for a consolation goal, putting the shackles on his marker.

To put a perspective on Dublin's defensive dominance in the first half, two of Monaghan's three first-half points came off scores from wing backs, Colin Walshe and Karl O'Connell, and both came in the final five minutes of the half.

With Cian O'Sullivan having the run of the middle third, Monaghan just couldn't find a way through. By comparison Dublin were a model for all aspiring teams trying to knock Jim Gavin's men off their perch.

The 2016 Player of the Year, Brian Fenton, orchestrated things from midfield, while Con O'Callaghan - in his rookie year with the seniors - was a wise head on young shoulders with an assured display at centre forward.

And from the time Paul Mannion pointed an excellent score into the Hill end, Dublin were always well in control as they built up a 0-5 to 0-1 lead at the end of the first quarter, with Monaghan playing piggy-in-the-middle as Dublin slowly bided their time.

Due to a heavy spell of rain which had come down earlier, the pitch was a bit heavy, but nonetheless Dublin had carved two early goal chances through James McCarthy and O'Callaghan, but by half-time still led on an 0-11 to 0-3 scoreline despite those relatively late scores from Walsh and O'Connell.

Rock's 40th-minute goal aside, after a selfless pass from Paddy Andrews had allowed the former Garristown native to fist past the keeper, Monaghan made some inroads early in the second half, with Cluxton saving off McCarron 13 minutes after the restart.

Otherwise, though, Dublin made most of the running, with the bench making a good contribution.

Fingallians man Flynn set up Eoghan O'Gara for a point before finishing off with a point himself following a move involving all three substitutes.

Mannion and O'Gara both fluffed goal chances in that second half before Philly McMahon blocked an effort from Owen Duffy to keep the Dublin goal intact.

Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Philip McMahon, Cian O'Sullivan, Michael Fitzsimons; Johnny Cooper, John Small 0-1, Eric Lowndes; Brian Fenton, James McCarthy (0-1); Ciaran Kilkenny, Con O'Callaghan 0-1, Jack McCaffrey 0-1; Paul Mannion 0-3, Paddy Andrews 0-3, Dean Rock 1-7, (0-6f, 0-1 '45). Subs: Bernard Brogan for Lowndes (41), Darren Daly for Small (50), Paul Flynn 0-1 for McCarthy (50), Eoghan O'Gara 0-1) for Andrews (54), Michale Darragh Macauley for Kilkenny (57), David Byrne for Cooper (60)

Monaghan: Rory Beggan 0-1, (0-1f); Fintan Kelly, Drew Wylie, Rrayn Wylie; Colin Walshe 0-1), Kieran Duffy, Karl O'Connell 0-1); Kieran Hughes, Darren Hughes 0-1); Gavin Doogan, Dessie Ward, Shane Carey; RyanMcAnespie 0-1), Jack McCarron, Conor McManus 0-4, (0-3f). Subs: Conor McCarthy 0-3 for Doogan (35), Owen Duffy for Ward (h-t), Dessie Mone for O'Connell (43), Vinnie Corey for R Wylie (43), Dermot Malone for Carey (55), Neil McAdam for D Hughes (62)

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)

Fingal Independent