| 17.1°C Dublin

Jim-dandy for Dublin

AS Croke Park baptisms go, Saturday night ticked plenty of boxes for Jim Gavin. Any night you beat those spring specialists from Cork in league combat must qualify as a a job well done. Doing so by six points in a free-scoring exhibition merely iced the cake.

A perfect display? Anything but, a point underlined by Gavin afterwards. While Dublin tallied points as if they might go out of fashion, Cork scored a couple of goals and got in behind the cover for at least two more goal chances only to be repelled by Dublin's newly announced skipper, Stephen Cluxton.

So, the evolving Sky Blues have scope for improvement – exactly what every manager craves at this time of year – but they won't be under desperate pressure for points either when heading south for Killarney next Sunday.

Gavin, no doubt, will continue to experiment, blending old with the new; and if he keeps getting results along the way, better still.

"I don't think I said I was looking for performances as opposed to results," he countered on Saturday night, in response to a question suggesting as much. "I'm trying to get both, to be honest – I think we all are.

"But if you're asking me about the performance, it wasn't consistent enough for me ... the two goals and the penalty that led to the second goal, that wouldn't be good enough, so we're going to have to have a good look at that. Lot of frees given away; they got lots of scoring opportunities. We could have been clinical with ours as well. We have a lot of work to do," he stressed.

Still, we'll start with the positives. Dublin amassed 1-18, enough to win almost any match, league or championship. Fifteen of those points came from open play, the majority from three sources who represent the three generations hoping to nail down places on Team Gavin.

Bernard Brogan is a marquee name aiming to remain that way under new management: in the past year we have seen just fleeting examples of his ruthless streak (usually against pulverised Louth defenders) but here we saw flashes of the Bernard of old.

Three of his six points came from play with a couple of assists for good measure, and while his early cutting edge was slightly blunted after the limpet-like Eoin Cadogan switched onto his patch, the former Footballer of the Year still ended the night in credit. Paddy Andrews represents the second generation – players who have been around for a few years without ever establishing permanent first-team residency – and he was better again than Brogan.

In the past, it's arguable that the St Brigid's man was a victim of his own versatility – even here he wore No 11 but spent most of the night closer to goal, and he was rewarded with five points, all from play, crowned by a thumping 45-metre effort in the closing minutes.

And the third generation? They are the newcomers aiming to capitalise on the opportunity afforded by a new boss, who has cut his managerial teeth with the best up-and-coming talent in the capital.

Baptisms

Five players made their full league debuts on Saturday night; a further three made their spring baptisms off the bench. Of the new brigade, quelle surprise, Jack McCaffrey was the standout performer and it was even less of a surprise to see McCaffrey do his best work as an auxiliary attacker.

The jet-heeled half-back landed his brace of points in the closing stages of a first half extended by six minutes following the concussion suffered by another Dublin debutant, the unfortunate Paul Mannion. Both of his scoring incisions came after switching to the right wing – a welcome release, no doubt, given that Cork's best forward, the floating Paul Kerrigan, was making first-half inroads down the opposite flank.

Beyond those two McCaffrey points, however, we had several other examples of his gliding qualities and almost effortless ability to transform defence into attack.

Of the other debutants, Kevin O'Brien had a few tricky moments on Colm O'Neill but grew into the game and can take heart from seeing his All Star opponent finish scoreless, albeit aided by a late save from Cluxton.

Emmet ó Conghaile and Paddy Quinn (the oldest rookie in town!) produced solid shifts while things weren't going Mannion's way even before he was nudged by Damien Cahalane, with painful consequences, straight into the path of teammate Paul Flynn.

context

In a defensive context, Jonny Cooper was probably the stand-out Dub – he excelled after switching onto Kerrigan – but collectively it wasn't quite the watertight display that the new boss would have hoped for.

All the early signs are that Gavin's Dublin will eschew the zonal defensive system favoured by his predecessor and concentrate on man-on-man marking.

However, we had a few examples of them being opened up too readily by Cork – notably for Aidan Walsh's brilliantly executed 12th-minute goal and later when sub Ciaran Sheehan was fouled by Darren Daly for a 52nd-minute penalty, converted with aplomb by Donncha O'Connor.

On two other occasions Cluxton sprung to the rescue, denying John O'Rourke and O'Neill.

Not that Cork – whose four pre-match alterations gave the visitors an altogether more callow look – ever looked capable of catching a dominant Dublin.

"We didn't seem to get to the tempo of it at all, at all," lamented Conor Counihan, whose side were chasing a losing battle once substitute Philly Ryan – sprung for his debut – won the 43rd-minute penalty that Diarmuid Connolly dispatched with nerveless precision.


Privacy