Blues brothers hit right note on dour day
Dublin 1-9 Cavan 0-7
Spring cleaning in winter's worst wear. Forget burnout. This effort at Breffni Park was a bit of a washout from start to finish. And after the washing dried, both sides were left with as much to deliberate, little enough to celebrate.
Albeit Dublin squirreled away the two points k on a night of howling gales and driving rain. Despite their understandably error-strewn efforts, Paul Caffrey's men remain a tad laboured, continuing to bewilder even those fans who should be by now beyond bewildering.
But, crucially, they also remain unbeaten and upbeat. In winters -- and springs -- past, this was a game that the Dubs would have carelessly foostered away.
Instead, reeling in a four- point advantage compiled within 20 minutes by their lively hosts, Dublin hit the front after the hour and twisted the knife with a poacher's goal from Bernard Brogan.
"All credit to Cavan," said Caffrey. "We didn't expect anything different up here. We set out our stall to win every match we play and so far so good. We've had tight tests. Teams are gunning for us. I like our maturity and little things please me as we go along."
Worryingly little maturity was evident in the early stages, however, as Cavan raged as ferociously against the odds as the elements confronting them, four Johnston frees and a point from the lively Michael Lyng forged a decent advantage.
Dublin's appalling profligacy couldn't last though, and Mark Vaughan, who sparked his team into life with a wonderful 22nd minute score, hit a superbly struck 45 on the half-time whistle to complete a stirring revival.
Leinster's champions struggled to extricate themselves from Cavan's vice-like grip, half-forward duo Rory Donohoe and Martin Reilly aiding sweeping duties while even full-forward Sean Brady shuffled back.
"We'd some great passages of football but after those five points after the first 20 minutes, we didn't score to half-time and that's not good enough," bemoaned Cavan boss Donal Keoghan. "We performed well, showed a lot of heart. But we lacked imagination up front."
Dublin's second-half reaction was encouragingly robust, aided by the introductions of Ciaran Whelan and Conal Keaney, although it had been sad to see league debutant Brendan McManamon being the first to head for the showers despite his impressive two points from play.
After the break, Dublin fell behind again, their centre-back concerns continuing to be highlighted as Johnston burned Paul Casey but fine Keaney and Vaughan efforts preceded the killer blow in the 62nd minute as a tiring Cavan began to fall off tackles.
Jason Sherlock's adroitness in releasing Alan Brogan was key to the Blues brothers dovetailing for the three-pointer, Alan's shot rebounding from the inside of the right-hand post for Bernard to tap home. "It's always good to get a goal and it was well-taken in the end," offered Caffrey. "It made the last seven or eight minutes very comfortable."
Mixing an age-old tactic while aping a current trend, Cavan had been in the process of shoving veteran midfielder Dermot McCabe, an All Star of '97, into the full-forward line and, from the kick-out, he found himself with a glorious chance to knot the tension once more.
Predictably, the excellence of Stephen Cluxton batted away the only saving grace left.
Cavan remain pointless and Johnston clearly needs support around him.
As for Dublin? This should not be the time for overly severe circumspection. But then, this is Dublin. "Absolutely improvement is needed but conditions were horrific. It's winter football. We've failed these challenges previously so we're happy enough to get out of it with a victory."
Caffrey is relatively effusive. Monaghan next? "We expect a tough battle." McManamon's impact? "Maxy's a good bit of stuff, a bubbly player, a good 45 minutes, did well for us." Missed chances? "We missed quite a few, made it a bit of a struggle." The easy two points from Cork? "Cork? Ah here, anyone else there want a question?"
We couldn't be more shocked if he had exclaimed "last of the ice creams". Jeez, Pillar, some of us have homes to go to! What about Whelan coming back? "He was always coming back. Summer's the time for him though." And, he may have added after the 6,500 or so dried out, for the rest of us too.
Scorers -- Dublin: B Brogan 1-1, M Vaughan 0-4 (1f, 1 '45'), C Keaney (1f), B McManaman 0-2 each. Cavan: S Johnston 0-6 (4f), M Lyng 0-1.
Cavan -- J O'Reilly; M Hannon, P Reilly, K Fannin; A Forde, R Flanagan, D Sheridan; D McCabe, M McKeever; M Reilly, M Lyng, R Donoghue; J O'Reilly, S Brady, S Johnston. Subs: J Cunningham for Jason O'Reilly (56), L Mulvey for Brady (69).
Dublin -- S Cluxton; D Henry, R McConnell, S O'Shaughnessy; P McMahon, P Casey, C Moran; E Fennell, S Ryan; B Cullen, A Brogan, M Vaughan; J Sherlock, B Brogan, B McManamon. Subs: C Keaney for McManamon (46), C Whelan for Fennell (57), P Flynn for A Brogan (65), D O'Mahony for Ryan (67), D Lally for McMahon (69).
Ref -- P Fox (Westmeath).