Champions splutter to victory but Connolly may face questions
Dublin 0-19 Carlow 0-7
Dublin won their 19th Leinster Championship match in a row yesterday in O'Moore Park but Carlow avoided the annihilation most expected and the team's current standings suggested.
Beforehand, most felt it pertinent to look up Dublin's record Leinster SFC winning margin for future use. With 15 minutes gone in the second half, we were thumbing through data to find the last time they were so closely shaved.
Then, Carlow's totem Brendan Murphy was sent off and the possibility of a tense final gallop evaporated. Mostly though, Dublin will see it as the first, wobbly step towards the prospect of a third All-Ireland in a row.
Carlow will reflect on a job mostly well done, evidence that even the game's aristocracy are vulnerable to the sort of flinty, determined resistance Turlough O'Brien's team put up yesterday.
Only for Murphy's red card issued after a second yellow, they could have kept a tighter grasp on Dublin's coat-tails.
Carlow's plan revolved primary around the process of constriction. Mostly, they defended with 14 men behind the ball. Presumably on the rationale that the less time the ball is in play, the less time there is for Dublin to do damage, they killed time on their own kick-outs.
They also hit as hard and as often as the team of their impressive natural size should. Dublin's response was to go man-to-man and press as high up the pitch as their direct markers took them, often leaving 26 players in one half of the pitch and four in the other.
Carlow led after 54 seconds. Murphy opened the scoring but a pair of Dean Rock frees put Dublin in the lead by the fifth minute. In Murphy, Carlow possess one of the best fielders of the ball in the country and in Paul Broderick, one of the best freetakers.
Neither had the desired effect, however.
Brian Fenton was more than an aerial match for Murphy, who tried to do too much on his own and though Broderick kicked one monster from roughly 58 metres in the first half, he miscued two others from well inside his impressive range.
Dublin eschewed the practice of rotating possession along the '45 and shooting from long-range - their customary tactic against a double-stitched blanket - in favour of trying to run through the tangle of bodies.
Jack McCaffrey's two first half points were the fruits of two successful attempts but many Dublin attacks fell victim to the level of congestion in front of the Carlow goal.
Mostly though, Carlow held onto the ball well. They were comfortable with slow, laborious build-ups and happy to let Dublin give chase. The 0-8 to 0-5 half-time scoreline was a reflection of both Carlow's stubbornness and Dublin's sloppiness.
After a fractious opening to the second-half, however, Murphy was sent off on the advice of linesman Ciarán Branagan after an off-the-ball altercation with Jonny Cooper.
Earlier, Branagan crossed words with Diarmuid Connolly, who appeared to lay a hand on the Down official, though no action was taken by referee, Seán Hurson.
As it went, Murphy's dismissal killed Carlow's verve and Dublin began to pull away, their 11 point winning margin slightly flattering to their efforts.
Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-6 (6f), C Kilkenny 0-3, C O'Callaghan (0-2f), J McCaffrey, B Brogan 0-2 each, N Scully, P Mannion, C McHugh, D Connolly (50) 0-1 each. Carlow: P Broderick 0-3 (3f), D Moran, B Murphy, S Murphy, D Foley (f) 0-1 each.
Dublin: S Cluxton; E Lowndes, C Cooper, M Fitzsimons; J McCaffrey, C O'Sullivan, J McCarthy; C Kilkenny, B Fenton; N Scully, C O'Callaghan, D Connolly; P Mannion, D Rock, K McManamon. Subs: B Brogan for McManamon (45), S Carthy for McCaffrey (53), M Schutte for Scully (58), C McHugh for Rock (58), D Byrne for O'Sullivan (63), D Bastick for Fenton (67)
Carlow: C Kearney; C Crowley, S Redmond, C Lawlor; D Moran, D St Ledger, G Kelly; B Murphy, S Murphy; E Ruth, A Kelly, S Gannon; J Murphy, D Foley, P Broderick. Subs: M Rennick for Kelly (41), S Clarke for Ruth (53), K Nolan for Crowley (63), BJ Molloy for Moran (67), C Moran for Broderick (69)
Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone)
Sunday Indo Sport