Smooth take-off but Gavin keeps feet on ground
Dublin 1-18 Cork 2-9
Good, but not good enough.
Jim Gavin gave a clear indication of the standards he expects Dublin to apply when he raised questions about his side's consistency even after they had returned 19 scores and beat the defending Division 1 champions by six points in Croke Park on Saturday night.
"It's a good start to get a six-point win. To get a start like that for the first competitive outing was quite satisfying," he said, before addressing the overall balance of the performance.
"It wasn't consistent enough for me. There's a lot of work to be done over the next couple of weeks," Gavin said.
True, but it will take place in a hugely encouraging environment where the scramble for places is feeding into an energetic dynamic that bodes well for the season ahead.
Most of the newcomers did well, with wing-back Jack McCaffrey especially effective, certainly in an attacking context.
Paddy Andrews has been on the circuit for some years without locking down a regular starting slot, but he made a bold statement of intent on Saturday, scoring 0-5 from open play in a man-of-the-match performance. Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly also prospered in an attack that lost impressive debutant Paul Mannion after 25 minutes.
He took a heavy knock to the head in a collision and play was held up for six minutes as medics attended him before he was taken to hospital. However, it's not thought that the injury is serious.
Elsewhere, there was much for Dublin to enthuse about as they out-smarted Cork in most departments. They made some errors, too, a couple of which led to goals and two others which required excellent saves from Stephen Cluxton in either half.
Cork's first goal, scored by Aidan Walsh in the 12th minute, will certainly be revisited on the Dublin training ground as the big midfielder was untracked as he galloped through the centre before taking a pass and angling the ball skilfully past Cluxton.
The second Cork goal, despatched to the net by Donncha O'Connor from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute, arose from a sloppy tackle on Cork substitute Ciaran Sheehan.
Dublin's goal also came from a penalty by Diarmuid Connolly after substitute Philly Ryan was fouled in the 43rd minute.
The biggest question of the evening for Dublin was posed after O'Connor's goal cut the deficit to four points heading into the final quarter, but the response was authoritative and they quickly regained control before taking things through to a successful conclusion.
"Anytime we came back at them, they pushed on again. We didn't get to the tempo of the game at all. It just wasn't good enough from our perspective – Dublin were much the superior team overall," said Cork manager Conor Counihan.
However, he did have some positives to take on the long trek home, mainly in the form of good performances from newcomers John O'Rourke, the two Tom Clancys (Fermoy and Clonakilty), plus a solid effort from Aidan Walsh, Eoin Cadogan and Paul Kerrigan in the first half.
Overall, though, it was a sloppy opener from Cork on a night when, to add to their structural problems, they were let down by poor kicking off dead balls with Donncha O'Connor, Colm O'Neill and Aidan Walsh all off target. Counihan drafted in the experienced brigade in the form of Graham Canty, Alan O'Connor and Sheehan in the second half, but, by then, Dublin had a tight grip on the initiative and were never going to lose it.
With some big names still to return to the set-up, it leaves Gavin in a very strong position as he attempts to build a championship side. Dublin are using an attractive combination of long and short, a policy which works well in a squad that has lots of pace.
Some of their combination play was extremely productive, while McCaffrey's forward runs, which yielded two first-half points, brought an extra dimension which Cork never quite figured out.
"It was a disappointing night for us and we'll have to learn from it. We came here intent on putting up a big performance, but it didn't work out at all," said the Cork boss.
"We have a lot of work to do," added Counihan who now faces the challenge of refocusing his squad for the home clash with Kildare on Saturday night.
Gavin takes Dublin to Kerry on Sunday in what will be only one of two 'away' league fixtures for Dublin. He will do so in an upbeat frame of mind after watching his side score 1-18 in a performance which prompted their odds to win the title outright to be cut from 5/2 to 15/8.
That may be an over-reaction to a game where Cork's shortcomings played a significant role in making Dublin look so efficient. There's something disconcerting for Cork supporters in the manner in which the side gets lost for long periods. When Cork are going well, they can match anybody, but their valley periods tend to be dark and damaging.
They scored just twice in the opening 23 minutes and again in the final quarter on Saturday, returning a total of 1-3 for those 50 minutes. In between, they scored 1-6, which was a reasonable return, but no team can expect to win games without a more even spread of scores throughout the 70 minutes.
Dublin were far more balanced in their scoring pattern with a quarterly breakdown of 0-5, 0-6, 1-3 and 0-4.
It provided the Gavin era with the impetus for a smooth take-off and left Cork with much to address before resuming their bid to win the Division 1 title for a fourth successive year.
Man of the match: P Andrews (Dublin)
Scorers – Dublin: B Brogan 0-6 (3f), D Connolly 1-2 (1-0 pen), P Andrews 0-5, J McCaffrey 0-2, MD Macauley, P Ryan, C O'Sullivan 0-1 each. Cork: A Walsh 1-1, D O'Connor 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-f), J O' Rourke 0-3, P Kerrigan 0-2, F Goold 0-1.
Dublin – S Cluxton 8; D Daly 6, R O'Carroll 7, K O'Brien 7; J Cooper 7, G Brennan 6 J McCaffrey 8; MD Macauley 6, E O Conghaile 7; P Flynn 6, D Connolly 7, P Quinn 7; P Mannion 7, P Andrews 9, B Brogan 8. Subs: P Ryan 7 for Mannion (25), C O' Sullivan 7 for Macauley (46), C Reddan 7 for Quinn (54), D Nelson 7 for Daly (63), S Carthy for O Conghaile (66).
Cork – K O'Halloran 6; J O'Sullivan 7, E Cadogan 7, D Cahalane 6; P Kissane 6, Tom Clancy 7 (Clonakilty), Thomas Clancy (Fermoy) 7; A O'Sullivan 6, A Walsh 7; F Goold 6, J O'Rourke 8, P O'Neill 5; C O'Neill 6, D O'Connor 5, P Kerrigan 7. Subs: C Sheehan 6 for O'Neill (50), G Canty 6 for Cahalane (50), A O'Connor 5 for Goold (56), B O'Driscoll 6 for Walsh (63).
Ref – E Kinsella (Laois)