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Dubs on end of a hiding

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Dublin's Conal Keaney. Picture: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile.

Dublin's Conal Keaney. Picture: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile.

Dublin's Conal Keaney. Picture: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile.

TWO years ago, as reigning Allianz League champions, the Dublin hurlers opened their Division One defence with an utterly underwhelming seven-point defeat in Galway. They never fully recovered their mojo all season.

Yesterday, as reigning Leinster champions, Dublin ventured back to the same Salthill venue and endured something that was far, far worse than 2012.

And we're not just talking about the margin – 0-28 to 1-12 – because a 13-point differential scarcely does justice, not alone to Galway's complete dominance, but to the full horror of Dublin's malaise.

Meltdown? We're not inclined to go there because that suggests Dublin collapsed from a position of strength.

Instead, for roughly the opening 90 seconds, we had a misleading opening flourish inspired by David O'Callaghan, who pointed himself and then skinned his man to tee up Mark Schutte for a second score.

From there on, a team that went score-crazy against Galway in last year's Leinster final managed just four more converted frees for the remainder of the half, one that finished with a rampant Galway ahead by 0-16 to 0-6.

All that remained was the small matter of some scoreboard accountancy. And for a while, hard to believe, things went from horrid to even more hapless for the visitors who leaked another point (to Jason Flynn) within seconds of the restart before losing Conal Keaney to a second yellow card (after 42 minutes).

Two minutes later, when marauding midfielder Pádraig Brehony pounced on a Dublin line ball to bisect the posts, the gap had stretched to a calamitous 15 points. By the 58th minute, when David Collins arrowed over from 65 metres, the wing-back colossus had become Galway's ninth scorer and the chasm had extended to 17.

It will count as minor consolation to Anthony Daly that substitute Seán McGrath drilled home a 59th minute goal with his first touch; that Cian O'Callaghan showed corner-back defiance on his league debut, right to the end; or that the shellshocked Blues put some further late gloss on the scoreboard with points courtesy of the other O'Callaghan (Dotsy being a solitary beacon amid the forward gloom) and a McGrath free.

OUTPLAYED

Don't let that pseudo-revival fool you: this reporter cannot remember Dublin being so utterly outplayed, so far off the pace or so sluggish of movement, in any league game during the previous five years of Dalo's tenure.

Afterwards, the manager was as mystified as most of the pundits who had tipped Dublin for victory beforehand, other than drawing the conclusion that "we don't seem to be able to do half-baked".

Getting down to specifics, Daly highlighted the Galway half-back line's voracious monopoly of Gary Maguire's first half puckouts.

"The puckout stat at half-time was 14-1 to Galway on our half-forward line, so we got no launch pad there. The ball kept coming back down to Gary; as soon as he pucked it out, it was coming back down," the Dublin boss lamented.

"That was the launch pad for Galway. They just completely got on top in the half-back line and midfield ... I mean, they look like they have a half-back line there that would be unbeatable really. (Iarla) Tannian looked unbeatable there; Collins and Aidan Harte. So, d'ya know, they've obviously recovered from last year and seemed to be back at it fairly right."

Certainly, Tannian hurled up a centre-back storm until he and forward debutant Cathal Mannion were replaced to a rousing ovation just before the hour. But he was merely one of many Tribesmen to excel.

Their first touch was so silken as to make you double-check the February 16 date on the match programme. At midfield, Brehony's pinpoint passing was wonderfully complemented by David Burke's industry – encapsulated by a thunderous (but perfectly legal) Burke shoulder on Danny Sutcliffe.

Up front, meanwhile, all six starting forwards scored from play and each one was responsible to a lesser or greater degree for Dublin's defensive carnage. Debutants Flynn and Mannion each clipped four points from play while heaping misery on Stephen Hiney and All Star full-back Peter Kelly, who was surprisingly all over the shop.

Fellow All Star Liam Rushe didn't fare much better at centre-back, struggling in the air (against the towering Jonathan Glynn) and with his first touch on the ground.

Rushe was also yellow-carded for a late tackle on Niall Healy, whose off-load assist to Flynn for a 48th minute 'goal' was scratched from the record by Johnny Ryan's hasty early whistle. From the resultant 20m free, Conor Cooney's shot rebounded off the crossbar for the livewire Healy to land his sixth point, and fifth from play.

Dublin's meltdown was almost complete, although one late cameo probably summed up best how they were not at the Galway races: a short puckout to the left flank and, while two Dublin defenders dithered, Flynn nipped in between them to score Galway's final point.

The glass half-full?

It could have been worse: the hosts should have hit 30.


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