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Sky Blues have work to do

AS Easter resurrections go, Dublin's revival from their own personal Calvary - Castlebar nine days ago - wasn't exactly a biblical epic. They came to Cork and did what Dublin teams invariably do on Leeside - they lost.

And yet Pat Gilroy still sounded a relatively happy camper in the Páirc Uí Chaoimh tunnel yesterday as he reflected on a vastly improved performance - but also a fourth defeat from seven games in this season's Allianz Football League.

The net result of this 1-12 to 0-12 reversal is that Cork - not Dublin - will be contesting a Division One semi-final next Sunday.

Conor Counihan's men have been incorrigibly inconsistent this spring but they've still done enough to finish second in the group; their reward is a last-four date with Down, opponents they've pummelled three times since their 2010 All-Ireland final meeting.

Dublin haven't made it to the play-offs and, in truth, they don't deserve to be there. Their overall performance levels this spring have been even more meandering than Cork's, while there has been emphatic evidence that Dublin without the Brogans are a couple of All Star forwards shy of All-Ireland class.

Gilroy's most publicly expres-sed concern has been their lack of intensity in certain games, while their discipline - or lack of - has been a source of much media discussion that it's a surprise Joe Duffy didn't add into the debate.

Finally, their away form would be a cause of finger-chewing capital angst but for the consoling fact that Dublin won't be leaving their Croke Park citadel next summer, presuming they go the direct route in Leinster.

Yesterday was their third consecutive defeat on the road. Their only away victory came against relegated Laois in early March.

The good news for Gilroy? This three-point loss - or more specifically, the second half - was a big improvement on their earlier defeat in Down and a vast step-up on their 12-point debacle in Mayo.

"It was a hell of a lot better than last week, obviously," said the Dublin manager.

"There was far more intensity about it, particularly in the second half. Disappointed not to get into the play-offs, but it was a hell of a lot better."

Clearly, Gilroy was in no mood to repeat his public dressing-down of the previous week. He got the response he wanted ... up to a point. As league 'thrillers' go, this was no classic.

In truth, the contest was positively underwhelming for the most part: Dublin were error-strewn in both their passing and shooting during a first half which ended with the visitors trailing by six (1-8 to 0-5), while Cork's use of possession in the second half was of the going sideways and often backwards variety.

They won, just about deservedly, in the end, the sides separated by Aidan Walsh's 19th-minute goal. But you'd struggle to pick out one Cork player as a compelling man of the match contender, which may explain why Walsh received the official TG4 gong. The converted target man was the game-changer, scoring 1-1 in the first half before switching back towards more familiar midfield haunts for much of the second period.

Walsh got the faintest of touches to Fintan Goold's inviting high delivery, wrong-footing keeper Michael Savage in the process, but it was still a poor goal for Dublin to concede.

They were already in sufficient bother, trailing by four, without giving Cork a seven-point headstart.

"I thought we were actually doing alright except we conceded a stupid goal," Gilroy lamented. "I mean, up to that point, we had a lot of chances as well and we didn't take them."

By the final whistle, their wide count had risen to 14; Diarmuid Connolly their culprit-in-chief.

Dublin's mercurial target man endured one of those all-kinds- of-everything displays where he finished as top scorer with 0-5 (2f) while conspiring to miss even more, shooting six wides and dropping another couple short.

In fairness to the visitors, having recovered from that fraught first 20 minutes, they did give Cork a few defensive headaches. Michael Darragh Macauley recovered from his early yellow peril to make some headway on the '40', Bryan Cullen offered further ballast in the half-forward line, while the typically direct Kevin McManamon consistently troubled Eoin Cotter whenever his team-mates picked him out.

Each of this trio landed a brace from play; McManamon was Dublin's top performer on the day.

Four unanswered points brought them within two of Cork after 47 minutes. On two further occasions, the gap was reduced to two, but they could never get any closer.

"I thought we were going to push on," Gilroy declared.

"We really had a lot of momentum, but we gave away a ball in the middle of the field and they went up and got a point ... those things turn these kind of games."

His counterpart was encouraged by the result, less so by Cork's ongoing inconsistency during games.

"We've had difficulties starting games well and today we got it right early on but dropped the momentum in the second half," Counihan ventured. "Four points in the second half -- you wouldn't win many games with that."

Last word to Gilroy, and his overall spring assessment.

"We know the bottom line for us in the championship is if we have that intensity, we'll be a good team," he said.

"If we don't have it ... the couple of games where we were really off that (intensity), we were brutal. So there are a lot of lessons out of the league for us, and plenty of time to work on them."


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