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Fintan Kelly, Monaghan, in action against Philip McMahon, left, and Cian O'Sullivan, Dublin. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Fintan Kelly, Monaghan, in action against Philip McMahon, left, and Cian O'Sullivan, Dublin. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Fintan Kelly, Monaghan, in action against Philip McMahon, left, and Cian O'Sullivan, Dublin. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

DUBLIN continue to operate at a completely different level to every other county with Monaghan the latest victim in what turned out to be a very one-sided quarter-final last Saturday.

It was yet another clinical performance from a team which seems to be getting better with every game and the quality of the football being played is breathtakingly simple with every member of the squad totally at one.

There is a certain amount of inevitability about each game with the only uncertainty being the winning margin.

Monaghan to their credit set up well and everything seemed to be going according to plan for the opening 25 minutes or so but after that the Dublin machine found its rhythm and the scores to crush their opponents.

Like in so many previous games the vital scores came in a short period of time before half-time and essentially wrapped up the game before the half-time break.

In that spell two great goals from Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan broke the Monaghan spirit and opened up the spaces as the Ulster men had no option but to come out and play in the second half.

They needed a very fast start after the break but it was Dublin who continued where they left off and kicked five of the next six points to put the game to bed. The five scores were of the highest quality and an example of just how good this team is.

EXCEPTIONAL

Kevin McManamon, Paul Flynn, Eoghan O'Gara and two from Alan Brogan were exceptional team scores with sublime build-up play out the field.

The ball is always transferred quickly to one of many Dublin players on the move and it almost always finishes with the man in the best position in the scoring zone.

I haven't seen any team playing as well as this Dublin team in a long time and the standards they are setting will be hard to match.

The question remains can any team contain them long enough and more importantly get enough scores of their own to challenge them.

Donegal will be their biggest challenge so far but it is hard to see how they can keep the Dublin forward line from scoring less than 15 points.

They might well be able to stop the three-pointers and if they can achieve that it they would go a long way to helping their cause.

As we know they play an ultra-defensive system under Jim McGuinness and have lived and died by it over the last number of years so it is unlikely that they will change over the next three weeks.

That would mean of course that Stephen Cluxton will be able to find a free defender from his kickouts and that would put Dublin on the front foot.

Against Monaghan on Saturday he was able to place his kicks without any pressure and that allowed the Dubs to dictate the pace of play.

At the other end Rory Beggan had to kick the ball long into a crowed midfield because the Dublin forwards pushed up on their men and Dublin won a lot of the Monaghan kickouts and indeed the two goals came from this.

It was surprising that they didn't add a few more goals in the second period having created at least another three great opportunities but shots from Cormac Costello and Connolly (twice) were off target.

The amount of scoring opportunities being created is astonishing but the forwards also understand that they need to work hard when they don't have the ball and this sets them apart from most other teams apart from Donegal.

The Dublin defence had another great day also with Philly McMahon outstanding in his role as defender/playmaker.

A lot of the Dublin attacks were initiated by him and his kick passing was excellent.

For Monaghan Dick Clerkin worked hard throughout the game as did Vinny Corey but too many others didn't perform at their best. Conor McManus wasn't allowed to get into the game and like a lot of full-forwards this season struggled against the in-form Rory O'Carroll.

It will take something very special or very unusual to stop the Dubs but Donegal won't be beaten, if beaten, by much. They were made work very hard by Armagh in the first quarter-final but showed great self-belief and calmness to kick the winning points.

Armagh have had a very good championship and will improve under Kieran McGeeney next season. The goal will be to regain the Anglo Celt trophy and that's something that looks possible.

They gave Donegal a hell of a game but they will need to find an offensive game to go with the defensive system that got them to the last-eight.

Donegal too will have to get more from the inside line after another poor display. The doesn't seem to be the same ruthlessness in front of goal as there was back in 2012 with their best player, Michael Murphy, operating out the field for long spells.

It would be a great battle between himself and O'Carroll but that battle is unlikely to materialise. Murphy did however kick the equaliser with a few minutes to go and was generally excellent during the game.

It is going to be a fascinating contest in three weeks time and a game that will definitely fill Croke Park.


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