Sunday 22 April 2018

Composed Dubs work their way through feisty Breffni battlers

Dublin 0-18 Cavan 0-11

Cavan duo Killian Brady, left, and Fergal Reilly get to grips with Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny during their Allianz NFL clash Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Cavan duo Killian Brady, left, and Fergal Reilly get to grips with Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny during their Allianz NFL clash Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It was business as usual for Dublin as they extended their unbeaten run in league and championship to 30 games, with many lessons learned by Cavan in their first Division 1 game for 13 years.

The clash between seasoned champions and ambitious arrivals at the top table was flagged as the opening round highlight and it didn't disappoint.

Dublin's Colm Basquel in action against Martin Reilly of Cavan Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin's Colm Basquel in action against Martin Reilly of Cavan Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Granted, there was never a stage when it looked as if Dublin might lose, but Cavan's defiance was sufficiently competitive to suggest they will have some good days in this high-powered group.

Manager Mattie McGleenan left Kingspan Breffni Park with lots of positives to work on before next weekend's Round 2 clash with Monaghan, but was disappointed by the size of Dublin's win.

"I don't think there was a seven-point margin in that game. They didn't get a goal chance. They threw some long balls in over the last 10 minutes to try and work a goal with (Eoghan) O'Gara. I thought we handled that really well," said McGleenan.

Cavan rose to many of the challenges with impressive maturity, but for all their energy and enthusiasm, in front of their excited supporters in the 16,331 crowd, they couldn't hope to bridge the gap in togetherness and cuteness between themselves and a Dublin squad operating at the peak of their powers.

Niall Clerkin of Cavan in action against Dublin's Colm Basquel Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Niall Clerkin of Cavan in action against Dublin's Colm Basquel Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile

Dublin were far from perfect, which was to be expected in their first competitive game of the season (the O'Byrne Cup was won with a back-up squad), but they have accumulated such vast reserves of craft and know-how that they know how to sort out problems calmly and efficiently.


Niall Scully's excellent form in the O'Byrne Cup earned him a start and he showed that he is well capable of performing at a higher level than he experienced throughout January.

As well as scoring two points from play, he also impressed in various moves and looks very much like a man who will add to Jim Gavin's selection options in attack.

Ciarán Kilkenny was as busy as ever all over the pitch, while James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey, back on duty after missing most of last year, also did well.

"It's good to have Jack back, he knows the scene well," said Gavin, who gave every indication that Dublin had no intention of adopting a different attitude to this year's league than to any of the previous four seasons when they won the title.

Bernard Brogan and Cian O'Sullivan may not be aboard for a few more weeks, but Gavin has so many players challenging each other for starting positions that the pursuit of a fifth successive league title will be driven by the high level of competitiveness within the group.

So will he experiment extensively over the coming two months?

"I wouldn't call it experimenting. We adopt the same approach to every game we play. We just want to go out and do our best. That has always been our philosophy. We never waver from that. The job of myself and the management is to get a group of players who are in form playing for Dublin," said Gavin.

It took them a while to get everything aligned yesterday against opposition who were probably being empowered by the energy on the terraces.

Cavan led by 0-5 to 0-4 after 21 minutes, before Dublin kicked five unanswered points. That gave them a control they never subsequently relinquished.

They led by 0-10 to 0-7 at half-time, before winning the second-half by 0-8 to 0-4. Their winning margin should have been higher, but they were let down by poor shooting as their second-half wides tally eventually reached nine.

"We're happy to get that performance. It was always going to be difficult today - 16,000 people here and a great atmosphere for the first round of the National League," said Gavin.

"It certainly gave the Dublin players a spring in their step when they saw the size of the crowd and the great travelling support.

"We gave a workmanlike performance, scoring 18 points, and we limited them to four points from play in the second-half. That was pleasing defensively when we expected them to come hard at us. I thought we controlled the game very well."

McGleenan had spoken before the game about how teams "are not going to beat Dublin playing 15 men inside the 45", but it didn't take long for Cavan to pack their defence.

They had 13 players inside their own 45 after just 90 seconds, which was the inevitable reality when facing a team with such immense power.

In fairness, Cavan tried to be expansive once they got possession, but there were also passages in the first-half where Seanie Johnston and Niall McDermott were the only players close to the Dublin goal.

Johnston, who scored three points from open play and who was unlucky with a few other attempts, tested the Dublin defence off limited supply. However, then winning enough ball to feed the inside men was always going to be a problem for Cavan.

"Every game we play now is building blocks. We'll improve and by the time the ground dries and summer comes Cavan is going to a real football team," said McGleenan.

"We'll cut out the mistakes we made today. Every game is going to challenge us to play at our maximum potential because that's what Division 1 football does. It's where Cavan belongs and where we want to be."

Gavin confirmed that Tomás Brady will not be aboard the Dublin panel this year, having opted out for work and personal reasons.

"Tomás has had a stellar career with us - we'll certainly miss him," said Gavin.

Of course, all other counties would miss a player of his calibre a whole lot more, but then Dublin are blessed with so much riches that even a second-second string team would be competitive in Division 1.

As for Cavan, they did well enough on their return to the top flight, but will need to build on it quickly, starting against Monaghan next weekend.

Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-7 (6f), J McCarthy, N Scully 0-2 each, K McManamon, MD Macauley, J Whelan, C Kilkenny, J McCaffrey, B Fenton, C Costello (f) 0-1 each.

Cavan: S Johnston 0-5 (2f), N McDermott, G Smith (2f) 0-2 each, J McCutcheon, C Madden 0-each.

Dublin: S Cluxton 6; M Fitzsimons 6, P McMahon 7, E Lowndes 7; J McCarthy 8, J Small 7, J McCaffrey 7; B Fenton 7, MD Macauley 7; J Whelan 6. C Kilkenny 7; N Scully 8; P Mannion 6, D Rock 7, K McManamon 6. Subs: C Costello 6 for McManamon (42), C Basquel 6 for Whelan (46), E O'Gara 6 for Mannion (55), D Byrne 6 for Fitzsimons (58), C Reddin 6 for Macauley (62), C McHugh for Rock (70).

Cavan: J Farrelly 6; K Brady 7, R Dunne 6, F Reilly 6; C Brady 6, C Moynagh 6, P Faulkner 6; K Clarke 7, J McCutcheon 6; D McVeety 7, G Smith 7, M Reilly 6; N Clerkin 6, N McDermott 6 S Johnston 7.

Subs: P O'Connor 6 for McDermott (ht), S Murray 7 for McCutcheon (ht), G McKiernan 7 for Dunne (42), C Madden 6 for Moynagh (46), N McKiernan 6 for Clerkin (61), S O'Rourke for C Madden (66).

Ref: P O'Sullivan (Kerry)

Irish Independent

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