DIFFERENT year, same horribly lopsided story. In a contest (and we use the word loosely) all too similar to last year's turkey shoot, Dublin U21 footballers last night cruised to a 31-point, 2-28 to 0-3 win over Carlow to qualify for a Leinster semi-final.
The Dubs now meet Longford, who edged out Laois 1-13 to 1-12 after extra time. The script had been penned long before the visitors even disembarked from the bus in Carlow IT. They were the Goliath in Sky Blue; their unheralded hosts were David without the sling.
It promised to be a massacre akin to last year's 37-point pummelling in Parnell Park. The bookies had effectively told us not to turn up, Paddy Power quoting Dessie Farrell's prolific young cubs at outlandish odds of 1/500.
The script didn't change and the bookies were on the money. For Dublin, the bar is now raised considerably and they will tread cautiously against Longford, their shock conquerers from last year.
The visitors started without three of their more high-profile names – Paul Mannion, Cormac Costello and long-term absentee Emmet ó Conghaile. Not that it mattered a whit because, by the end of the first quarter, they already led 0-8 to 0-1, the gulf in class visible for all to see.
The game was only 15 seconds old when Jack McCaffrey launched one of his trademark turbo runs through the middle; briefly it appeared that a goal might beckon for Ciarán Kilkenny but the Dublin senior ace settled for a hooked point instead.
Within eight minutes Kilkenny already had 0-3 on the board, and by the time he departed in the second half his tally had risen to five, all from play.
Patrick O'Higgins was like a kickout colossus in that opening half, albeit claiming several balls uncontested. Shane Carthy was full of running alongside, and chipped in with four points.
Carlow were wind-assisted before the break but even the elements couldn't stall what was essentially one-way traffic. Dublin spurned a couple of goal chances – Michael Deegan and Niall Scully both striking the woodwork from presentable openings – but then in first-half injury-time the Carlow dam finally burst.
Scully, Kilkenny and Robert McDaid were all involved in a flowing move that ended with Eric Lowndes sending a cracker to the roof of the Carlow net. The half-time whistle sounded with Dublin 1-12 to 0-2 clear, already home and hosed.
Lowndes has showcased his senior claims at wing-back during the current league, but here he caught the eye in a new centre-forward role. Not that you could make any definitive judgements against opponents who failed to score from play over the hour, their three points all coming from frees.
Now backed by the wind, Dublin continued to make it one-way traffic on the resumption. McCaffrey landed a quickfire brace from wing-back and departed soon after, his night's work done. Deegan helped himself to a 39th-minute goal en route to amassing a top-scoring 1-6, all from play.
Dublin had already added an unanswered 1-11 before Graham Power's long-range free broke Carlow's second-half duck. By then, the winners had already emptied their bench – and duly finished with 13 men after further injuries to Robert Gaughan and Conor Mullally. Not that you'd have noticed.
Elsewhere in the competition, Offaly sent Leinster champions Kildare crashing 0-13 to 0-9 in Athy, while Louth and Meath must meet again after a 3-11 to 2-14 draw in Dundalk.
SCORERS – Dublin: M Deegan 1-6; C Kilkenny, C McHugh (2f) 0-5 each; S Carthy 0-4 (1f, 1 '45'); E Lowndes 1-0; J McCaffrey, G Ivory (1 '45', 1f), N Scully (1f) 0-2 each; S Boland, Shane Cunningham 0-1 each. Carlow: N Quinlan, R O'Brien, G Power 0-1f each.
DUBLIN: L Molloy; R McGowan, D Byrne, R McDaid; C Mullally, J Small, J McCaffrey; P O'Higgins, S Carthy; N Scully, E Lowndes, N Walsh; M Deegan, C McHugh, C Kilkenny. Subs: G Ivory for Walsh (39), S Boland for McCaffrey (39), B Fenton for Carthy (44), R Gaughan for Lowndes (47), G Hannigan for McHugh (47), Shane Cunningham for Kilkenny (51).
CARLOW: P Byrne; T Eustace, A Mullins, C Dermody; L Roberts, R Jeffers, G Power; S Murphy, D Murphy; S Kelly, D O'Brien, R O'Brien; S Doyle, S McGrath, N Quinlan. Subs: T Kenny for D O'Brien (11), M Pearson for Jeffers (25), F Keogh for Byrne (37), D Hickey for Mullins (black 42), C O'Toole for Kelly (42), E Lawlor for Dermody (inj 50).
REF: A Nolan (Wicklow).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Michael Deegan (Dublin)