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Watson to the rescue as Dubs edge it

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Dublin's Kevin McManamon in action against Louth's Keith McLoughlin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Dublin's Kevin McManamon in action against Louth's Keith McLoughlin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Dublin's Kevin McManamon in action against Louth's Keith McLoughlin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

THIS is what learned football men mean when they speak of 'January Football'.

Dublin beat Louth in Parnell Park last night by 2-6 to 0-8, a win which nevertheless carried all their battling trademarks, though it's unlikely to prompt undue introspection for either Jim Gavin or, indeed, Aidan O'Rourke.

The rain teemed down. The pitch, already sodden and waterlogged, came in for extreme punishment.

And so, by extension, the football was neither free-flowing nor pretty until a 59th minute goal from Dublin sub Daniel Watson - who also netted a late clincher - squeezed some glamour out of the evening.

Dublin blended the brand spanking new with the gnarled and peripheral, featuring just Philly McMahon - a late replacement for Ciarán Kilkenny and in an interesting posting at centre-forward - of the All-Ireland final starting XV.

The selection and utilisation of Bryan Cullen at centre-back may or not have had any significance, given that Ger Brennan will miss at least three matches of Dublin's League campaign, and possibly six should St Vincent's win their way to an All-Ireland club final, though he left the fray early due to injury,

Kevin Nolan showed some class from wing-back, spraying decent passes into a Dublin full-forward line highly reliant on the ball-winning capabilities of Kevin McManamon, though the Kilmacud Crokes defender too was subbed at half-time having shipped a heavy knock towards the end of the first half.

It was, however, Ballymun Kickhams full-back Seán George who stood amongst the posse, coping ably with Louth dangerman, Brian White in the first half, before his man was moved further afield in a bid to influence the play.

Largely though, it was a night for defenders. And umbrellas.

It took all of 15 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, with Jason Whelan slotting over when a goal seemed on, having been put through by the lively McManamon. Given the premium on decent openings, though, his decision was probably wise.

Thereafter, neither team scored for a full 17 minutes and at one stage, it appeared entirely likely that Dublin might go in 0-1 to 0-0 up.

That was until White opened Louth's account with a medium range free and it served momentarily to open the floodgates.

Liam Shevlin, a late inclusion on the Louth team, raced through from deep twice in the next two minutes to put O'Rourke's team 0-3 to 0-1 ahead as the teams, drenched as they were, retreated to the sanctuary of the Parnell Park dressing-rooms.

Louth went 0-5 to 0-2 in front early in the second half yet the introduction of Jonny Cooper injected some zip before Watson's cool finish from McMahon's pass.

He added a point after Paul Hudson kicked three on the spin but Louth rallied and pulled it back to within one going into the final five minutes.

But Watson struck again after stealing in behind the Louth defence to poke home and the result was sealed for Dublin. On the black card front, there was further disappointment for Armageddon predictors, though there was one dished out by referee Feargal Kelly to Darragh Nelson for a deliberate hauling down of Stephen Campbell, though at least two of the offences he adjudged yellow cards might, on another day, have been punished with the new measure.

"We're only back less than two week so there are bound to be some technical errors," reflected Gavin afterwards. "But the effort and endeavour was great throughout and I was very impressed with the player's commitment to keep strong to the end. Even when Louth looked as though they were going to push on, guys dug deep again.

"It's a great trait now that they have. They showed great resolve and pushed on to deservedly win at the end. So we got 2-5 out of 2-6 from play which, on a very difficult night for football and on a very sticky ground, was good," added Gavin.

The upshot of it all is Dublin can qualify for the O'Byrne Cup semi-finals if they win Sunday's meeting with DCU in Parnell Park (2.0).

And the good, bad and the ugly from last night will all get at least one more chance to remind Gavin of their worth ahead of the commencement of the League, though some are already moving ahead of the pack.

As the saying goes, if you can't do it in Donnycarney on a wet Wednesday...

SCORERS - Dublin: D Watson 2-1, P Hudson 0-3 (1f), S Carthy, J Whelan 0-1 each. Louth: B White 0-3 (1f), L Shevlin 0-2, D Byrne, S Campbell, D Crilly ('45) 0-1 each.

DUBLIN: S Currie; D Nelson, S George, M Fitzsimons; C Guckian, B Cullen, K Nolan; D O'Mahony, S Carthy; C Walsh, P McMahon, J Whelan; P Hudson, K McManamon, G Sweeney. Subs: J Cooper for K Nolan (ht), L Fletcher for Nelson (43, black card replacement), H Dawson for Walsh (48), N McGovern for Guckian (48), D Watson for Sweeney (53).

LOUTH: S McCroy; P Rath, D Finnegan, K McLoughlin; D O'Hanlon, D Crilly, L Shevlin, P Keenan, R Brodigan; D Byrne, G Connolly, B Duffy; K Rogers, B White, S Campbell. Subs: D Maguire for O'Hanlon (h-t), C Doyle for Rogers (48), P Sheehan for Brodigan (48).

YELLOW CARDS - Dublin: 2 (Walsh 41, George 54) Louth: 1 (Keenan 56).

BLACK CARDS - Dublin: 1 (Nelson 43) RED CARDS - 0.

REFEREE: F Kelly (Longford).

ATT: 3,000 (est).

MAN OF MATCH: Daniel Watson (Dublin).

O'BYRNE CUP RESULTS

Laois 2-18, Offaly 1-15; Wexford 2-3, UCD 2-12; Longford 0-6, Kildare 3-20;

Carlow 0-13, Athlone IT 1-15; Wicklow 1-21, DIT 3-13; Meath 0-18, Carlow IT 0-12; Dublin 2-6, Louth 0-8; Westmeath 2-9 DCU 2-15


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