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Blue 'machine' gets in gear

"A MACHINE," was how Peter Fitzpatrick described them. And he said it in a sort of dazed admiration which was intended as a compliment.

His team had just been decimated by the re-emergence of the All-Ireland champions and their first exposure to summer football, a hiding which exposed a massive chasm in football and power between the game's 'haves' and 'have-nots'.

For 70-odd minutes, Louth had run into man-sized brick walls, spilled possession and been punished in the harshest possible terms. The Dublin defence were tight and clinical. Their midfield, highly functional. And in attack, they were creative, inventive and sharp. In short, the Dubs are back and they are in good shape. Even if Louth's malaise was a mitigating factor.

"In the past we've had performances with big scores and then you come out the next day and you get shut down, so it depends on the game you're playing and that game is now history," said Pat Gilroy afterwards. "There is a replay now (between Wexford and Longford, the winner of which will play Dublin in four weeks' time) that we will go and watch next weekend and both of those teams are fairly good at defending so it's a completely different challenge."

Yesterday revealed nothing about the vulnerability of Dublin to the various pitfalls which are traditionally bestowed upon reigning All-Ireland champions.

But what we know now is this: Dublin are more organised than at this time last year. They are stronger, fitter and more au fait with the gameplan, something which appears to have been tweaked rather than overhauled.

They were more assured and accurate with their foot passing into their forwards and pretty clinical too, even if four decent-to-good goal chances went begging.

"I suppose after the league we gave them a bit of time off doing different things," the manager explained. "We weren't training collectively for a few weeks and we had fresh enough training sessions between different people doing different things in the training, so all we could see coming into it was that that was going well.

"People were very up for it so hopefully we can maintain that now.

"I have to say the preparation was very good. You'd have to be very confident going into it from a preparation point of view."

Yesterday was also the first sighting of Bernard Brogan in a Dublin jersey since last September, and it's probably safe to assume he enjoyed his afternoon, even if his initial contributions revealed a thin layer of rust.

Still, 2-6 (2f) is a healthy return for any forward on any given day and as Gilroy noted, the game-time will do his senses the power of good.

"I think he mixed the good with the bad," Gilroy reflected. "But for a fella whose first game it was in a while at inter-county level, I thought he was very good, won a lot of possession.

"All the games he can get now will bring him on a tonne but you could see that he had a fierce appetite for it by having not played.

"He wouldn't normally miss the free he missed but generally speaking you couldn't fault his application."


As for Louth, they were probably a beaten docket even before the first of Bernard Brogan's goals -- deliciously supplied by his older brother.

Croke Park is a big, open expanse and when the Dubs are in that sort of form, it's not a whole lot of fun for a team like Louth.

"I am in football a long time and (Dublin) is the most professional team I have seen in a long, long time," praised Fitzpatrick afterwards.

"I have a few strong lads at the moment and every time they went to go for a ball there was two or three Dublin fellas around them.

"At one stage I looked around and I counted the number of fellas on the field and I thought they had 20 because they were up and down the field. I have never seen such physique, such a powerful running team ever and that's from the goalkeeper the whole way up to the full-forward line."

Gilroy concluded by noting that Dublin would probably have been better served by a tighter challenge but, with four weeks to go until their Leinster semi-final, he was equally glad to come through their opening act relatively unscathed.

"Maybe it would have been better for us to have a tight game but I still think there were little things that were shown in that game, even early on, that we didn't handle very well," he offered.

"We have plenty to work on. You have to look at that side of the game. We had an awful lot of possession and yet we conceded 11 points. For the amount of possession we had, that was a lot. I think there's plenty to be learned from it. But you're never going to complain too much when you win by a bit," he concluded.