Sunday 25 February 2018

All-conquering Dublin overpower Monaghan

Dublin 2-22 Monaghan 0-11

Dublin's Nicky Devereux and Monaghan's Darren Hughes battle for possession in Croke Park yesterday. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Nicky Devereux and Monaghan's Darren Hughes battle for possession in Croke Park yesterday. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Dick Clerkin leaves the field after the defeat with his Monaghan team-mates. Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE


Rarely has a crowd of 72,000 made so little noise and had so little to shout about. Many had deserted long before the end, as had Monaghan's enfeebled challenge, the game turning into another facile Dublin victory. They won their last two championship matches by 16 points, and this went to 17, but it could have been far greater. In the second half Diarmuid Connolly had two goal chances and substitute Cormac Costello another at a time when Dublin were finding it hard not to showboat.

Donegal will expect to 
provide stiffer competition at least when they come gunning for the All-Ireland champions on August 31. What can Dublin do? They went about the task impressively after Monaghan looked ready to make a contest of it in the first 20 minutes, sharing the opening six points. Playing Stephen Gollogly as a sweeper and bringing players back to create as much congestion as humanly possible, they had the good start they needed.

But the good start wasn't even half the battle here. Dublin destroyed them in the middle of the field, winning the majority of the Monaghan kickouts, which mostly went long. And that dominance 
and pressure eventually told.

Conor McManus had kicked the day's first score from play after 20 minutes, an exceptional strike with his right foot, and with Colin Walshe the outstanding player on the field up to then, Monaghan were growing in confidence. The game turned in the minutes that followed. It began with a disallowed goal when Eoghan O'Gara fisted directly to the net. In the lead-up, Walshe picked up an injury that required treatment. When play resumed, Rory Beggan's kickout was gobbled up by blue shirts and in seconds the ball was back 
in the Monaghan net, this time perfectly legitimately.

O'Gara gave the pass to release Diarmuid Connolly, and, moving at full throttle, he slipped inside Walshe, possibly still recovering from his knock, and sent a low ball past Beggan in the 25th minute. From there, Dublin found their groove, and gaps in a previously crowded Monaghan backline started to appear. Connolly's goal was the start of a scoring run of 2-3 without a Monaghan response, pushing Dublin's lead to nine points after 31 minutes after Jonny Cooper scored from play.

The second Dublin goal came within three minutes of the first. James McCarthy carried the ball forward and managed to lure three Monaghan defenders towards him, delaying sufficiently long to open the pathway for Bernard Brogan to receive, move forward and finish expertly. Cooper's point had Dublin nine points up, 2-6 to 0-3, and they maintained that advantage at the interval, 2-8 to 0-5.

Having come off an extra-time win over Kildare a week earlier in the final round of the qualifiers, Monaghan were in no position to find a way out of that hole. Paul Finlay came on for the second half, but it was an impossible mission. To remove any notions that it might not be, Dublin outscored Monaghan 0-6 to 0-1 over the next 10 
minutes. By then, they had started using their well-stocked bench. It was the only value the game had left to offer, Monaghan also giving their replacements a run.

Bernard Brogan finished Dublin's top marksman with 1-7, though his only point from play had to wait until the 71st minute, the game's final score. His brother Alan kicked three from play, and all of their forwards registered. Dean Rock came in and kicked two tidy scores as he tends to do.

Monaghan could make little impact at the other end. Early on, Kieran Hughes kicked two excellent frees and McManus had four more over the course of the game, and two in total from play. Dick Clerkin kicked two points from play before being hauled ashore nearing exhaustion, but Darren Hughes made little impact and finished the game hovering around full forward.

Monaghan's year ends with at least the consolation that they will be back in Division One of the national league next season, and they have also the memory of a first Croke Park championship win in 84 years. But the gap 
to where Dublin are is somewhat terrifying. Donegal will relish a crack though.

Scorers - Dublin: B Brogan 1-7 (0-6 fs); D Connolly 1-2 (0-1 f); A Brogan 0-3; E O'Gara, D Rock, P Flynn 0-2; J Cooper, K McManamon, S Cluxton ('45'), C Costello 0-1. Monaghan: C McManus 0-6 (0-4 fs); K Hughes 0-2 (0-2 fs); D Clerkin 0-2; R Beggan ('45') 0-1. Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, R O'Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, J Cooper, N Devereux; M Macauley, C O'Sullivan; D Connolly, K McManamon, P Flynn; A Brogan, E O'Gara, B Brogan. Subs: C Costello for McManamon (43 mins); D Rock for O'Sullivan (47); J McCaffrey for Cooper (52); P Andrews for O'Gara (54); D Daly for McMahon (58); P Mannion for A Brogan (65).Monaghan: R Beggan; R Wylie, D Wylie, C Walshe; V Corey, D Mone, F Kelly; D Clerkin, D Hughes; K Duffy, S Gollogly, K Hughes; P Donaghy, C McManus, C McGuinness. Subs: P Finlay for Donaghy (half-time); J McCarron for McGuinness (42 mins); G Doogan for Gooogly (50); O Duffy for Clerkin & C Boyle for K Duffy (60); C Galligan for Kelly (67). Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).

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