Allianz FL Div 1 Dublin 2-15 Galway 0-15
A sign of these strange times. Galway lost by six points on home turf (minus the home fans) and yet their manager sounded every bit as satisfied as his victorious counterpart.
That's what happens when you are trying to banish the week-old demons of that ghoulish first half against Mayo, with the clock ticking and championship almost upon us.
Dublin simply needed to show that they're dusting down the Covid cobwebs. Galway needed to show a lot more.
Both teams did just that, and it's only fair to stress that Galway didn't deserve the bald look portrayed by a six-point margin. A late 1-1 salvo from Con O'Callaghan, his goal smartly finished at the second attempt after a fortuitous rebound off the post, underlines that point.
"It's always difficult when you get beaten by 15 points, especially to your arch-rivals," said Joyce. "But on reviewing the video, it was probably 20 minutes of poor football we played in the first half that cost us the whole thing.
"Look it, we can't allow ourselves to be judged on 20 minutes' football. We've gone through it with a fine toothcomb all week. We met, we thrashed it out and we got to the bottom of it, what was wrong, and we rectified some of it today.
"We're still taking baby steps but it's all about championship," he added. "Hopefully it's out of our system now."
For Dessie Farrell, it's more a case of flushing out the dirty petrol. Dublin were far from perfect against Meath and it was the same in Pearse Stadium yesterday. But they were good enough to outfox a Paul Conroy-inspired Galway and there was nothing here to suggest the greatest shock of the millennium - a looming ambush in Leinster - is imminent.
"A pleasing performance" was how their manager put it. "We are happy enough with it but there is plenty to work on, for sure … there is still a bit of ring-rustiness and we're trying to shake that off in advance of the championship."
An obvious positive for Farrell is that most of those seeking promotion from the fringes didn't look out of their depth. Cian Murphy and Robbie McDaid were solid in defence, but even more eye-catching were the performances up front of Paddy Small and Seán Bugler off the bench.
The younger Small tallied 0-4, two excellent efforts from play and two converted marks, with his fingerprints on several more scores.
Bugler, long touted as the most likely newcomer to break into the Fort Knox that is Dublin's front six, embellished his starting claims with an enterprising second half cameo.
His 50th minute goal, roofed to the net with supreme conviction, edged Dublin ahead for the first time since the third minute. His follow-up point, just before the water break, was equally impressive.
So, some welcome headaches for Farrell, who confirmed afterwards that Stephen Cluxton will skipper Dublin for an eighth consecutive championship.
The game itself was precisely the type of contest you could have predicted: a semi-dead rubber, if you will. Maybe you can blame David Clifford for having the temerity to lift the cup 24 hours earlier.
You certainly can't blame Conroy: the Galway veteran fired over six of his eight points before the break, including two from play and four booming efforts from the 45-metre line or beyond.
The last of those, a 55m free, came after James McCarthy was booked for sliding in on a loose ball and catching Ian Burke's ankle in the process. The 2018 All Star didn't resurface for the second half and was on crutches afterwards.
Even though McCarthy may have won the ball first, the Galway boss was not amused. "I thought it was a terrible tackle, sliding in on the ball with your feet out like that. He could have broken his leg in that tackle," Joyce claimed.
It's easy to say, in retrospect, that Galway's 0-9 to 0-7 half-time cushion was never likely to be enough facing into the notorious Salthill elements.
And yet they proceeded to kick three of the next four points, including a fine effort on the run from the freshly introduced and fit-again Shane Walsh, and suddenly they led by four.
But then, in the space of six minutes either side of the water break, Dublin hit 1-4 on the bounce, this critical period bookended by those converted marks from Small.
Short bursts of maximum efficiency, the team's trademark under Jim Gavin, remains a potent weapon. This was the game's turning point and "a killer", Joyce admitted, but he was "very proud" of his players and adamant that any unresolved issues exposed by Dublin were "fixable and within our own grasp".
The bad news is that Damien Comer is "probably gone for six weeks with a hamstring injury" from last week, and thus a certain non-starter against Sligo on Saturday week.
SCORERS - Dublin: D Rock 0-6 (4f), C O'Callaghan 1-2 (0-1m), S Bugler 1-1, P Small 0-4 (2m), C Kilkenny 0-2. GALWAY: P Conroy 0-8 (6f), R Finnerty 0-2 (1f), A Varley (m), S Walsh, G O'Donnell, J Leonard, L Silke 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton 7; C Murphy 7, D Byrne 6, M Fitzsimons 7; E Murchan 6, J Small 6, R McDaid 7; B Fenton 7, J McCarthy 6; B Howard 7; E Lowndes 5, C Kilkenny 7; P Small 8, C O'Callaghan 7, D Rock 7. Subs: S Bugler 8 for Lowndes (ht), C Costello 6 for McCarthy (46), T Lahiff 6 for Howard (63), K McManamon for P Small (68), P McMahon for Murphy (71).
GALWAY: B Power 6; S Mulkerrin 7, S Kelly 7, J Foley 6; L Silke 6, G O'Donnell 6, J Heaney 6; C D'Arcy 7, T Flynn 5; P Kelly 6, P Conroy 8, J Leonard 7; R Finnerty 6, A Varley 7, I Burke 5. Subs: M Barrett 6 for Flynn (31), S Walsh 7 for Burke (inj ht), G Sice 7 for Finnerty (ht), C McDaid 6 for O'Donnell (53), G Bradshaw 6 for P Kelly (59).
REF: D Coldrick (Meath)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Paddy Small