Dubs back on road to relevance after Laois victory
Ten-point win but much to work on for Cunningham's charges
NORMALLY you'd be nit-picking to take a 10-point win in Portlaoise just now and prod it and poke it for flaws.
But the prevailing sense after Dublin's All-Ireland SHC jump start on Saturday night was that Ger Cunningham's team could very easily have made life much more comfortable for themselves.
Then again, such was the uncertainty around the team going to O'Moore Park, any sort of win would be heartily greeted.
And so it was.
"It's a tough place to come," noted Cunningham. "We were certainly apprehensive but we knew we had work done.
"We knew we had worked hard in training. We learned lessons from the Galway game. It was good to get a bit of momentum but that performance wont be good enough in a week's time."
Yet when you consider that, between shots at Laois' goal and over-hit passes to their inside forwards, Dublin put the ball fruitlessly over the end line 20 times, you get some of the picture of Dublin's incomplete, if still effective, performance.
Or consider the fact that the home team's best, most rousing, patch of the game - a run of seven out of eight points midway through the first half to numb the blast of Dublin's early goals - came courtesy of a number of possession cough-ups.
But there was more good than bad and in the context of Dublin's horror show in Tullamore against Galway, doing enough was always going to be good enough to quell some of the more dramatic fears for the well-being of the team.
"We were lucky and unlucky," reflected Cunningham of his team's period of activity directly after the Tullamore let-down.
"Four weeks is a long time to get back on the pitch, I suppose, to prove to ourselves that the last day wasn't a true reflection of where we're at.
"What it did do was it gave us a good chance to reflect and look at the video. We were very disappointing against Galway.
"We didn't show up. We were struggling after 10 minutes. It didn't happen. But the four weeks gave us a bit of time.
"But it is a long time before you have another game to try and get it out of our system.
"But we were ready for it and we got a good start."
Nothing like a couple of quick goals for what ails ya' and Mark Schutte - as he has all year - obliged for Dublin here.
His scores were timed at 28 seconds and eight minutes and playing against a stiff if not obtrusive wind, Dublin couldn't have hoped for much better.
"It was something we didn't get the last day," Cunningham said.
"We were on the back foot the last day. It was nice to get that sort of start.
"Especially against the wind, it gave us a bit of a cushion that we were able to stay in command.
"But we had a lot of wides. We need to work on our shooting because if we had got some of those, we would have been in a lot better positions."
Sevan changes said much about the Galway performance and is the greatest selection uphevel this team has undergone since before Anthony Daly's time but generally, they worked.
Eamonn Dillon, in particular, was a roaring success.
His haul of four points didn't even do justice to his influence and his work-rate and willingness to make interceptions added hugely to the Dublin cause.
"We needed a bit of pace there," Cunningham reasoned. "Trollier just came back from injury before the Galway game. It was probably a bit tight for him but he showed when he came on that he did well.
"Cian (Boland) the same. He did very well in the under-21 game. These were the fellas who put their hand up in training and we had the confidence to go with them.
"We said to the players all along that we judge them on what we see in training. It's all we can go on. And the guys who put their hands up in training were rewarded and they paid us back tonight."
Similar success came from the switch-everyone-expected.
Conal Keaney was a revelation at full-forward and like Dillon, his 1-3 painted no substantial picture of his overall contribution.
"Keaney can do that. He offers us something different. He's probably a natural forward in that he's played most of his hurling as a forward."
Liam Rushe, meanwhile, wasn't fed the long, lobbing balls he revels in devouring at centre-back but he held a tight line to Cian O'Callaghan and his confidence in possession permeated through a team that grew with it as Laois began to accept the inevitability that they wouldn't force a goal that might have given Dublin the jitters.
"We're back in the ball game," Cunningham assessed.
"One game away from a quarter-final. But next week will be a completely different test. It's going to be a big step up," he added.