Thursday 24 January 2019

Cormac Costello gives Jim Gavin food for thought ahead of All Ireland semi-final with Galway

Dublin 4-24 Roscommon 2-16

Cormac Costello of Dublin in action against Ross Timothy of Roscommon
Cormac Costello of Dublin in action against Ross Timothy of Roscommon
Dublin’s Eoghan O’Gara attempts to get away from Peter Domican and Niall McInerney of Roscommon. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It was very much business as usual for Jim Gavin in his post-match media briefing in the bowels of the Hogan Stand.

He heaped praise on his players for their attitude in the build-up to this game, their performance in unusual circumstances, and even referenced the name of the charity the Dubs sported on their jersey for the day, Aoibheann's Pink Tie, which helps families whose children are battling cancer.

When he departed there must have been a deep sense of satisfaction for the Dublin manager, whose side head into the All-Ireland semi-final in rude health.

With top spot in the group already assured, Dublin's first priority would have been to come through the game unscathed.

Gavin made 10 changes from the side that beat Tyrone in Omagh and fielded without a number of his on-field generals.

Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny weren't named in the match-day squad and will go into the All-Ireland semi-final on the back of three weeks' rest while James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey played a half each.

Dublin's Cormac Costello. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Dublin's Cormac Costello. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Bernard Brogan's return to action will grab most of the headlines as the former Footballer of the Year completed his recovery from a cruciate knee ligament injury with a brief cameo but perhaps the most pleasing aspect of yesterday for Gavin will be the form of Cormac Costello.

Costello's talent has never been in doubt. He came through the age grades with a big billing after playing minor football with the likes of Kilkenny and McCaffrey only for injury and a loss of form to halt his progress while his peers established themselves as regulars.

The Whitehall man has shown only glimpses of this talent, like in the 2016 All-Ireland final replay, and his three championship appearances before yesterday came off the bench.

However, he looked back to his best in Croke Park, kicking 0-9, six from play, before being withdrawn early in the second half. Perhaps Gavin had seen enough and wanted to save his legs for Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final.

Dublin's Paddy Andrews in action against Roscommon's Darra Pettit. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Dublin's Paddy Andrews in action against Roscommon's Darra Pettit. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"Cormac's been showing that form for a good few months now," Gavin reflected afterwards.

"He's applied himself really well this year and been very dedicated to his sport. A result of all the hard work was the performance you have seen today, but we've been seeing that from him in the shadows. It was great for him and also great for the team."

Given the nature of the game, which meant little to either side, everything on show in Croke Park yesterday carries an asterisk. But there were other encouraging signs for Dublin.

Paul Flynn was rampant while Michael Darragh Macauley showed flashes of the form that made him so hard to handle when he won his Footballer of the Year gong in 2013.

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"I think the team selection was to give players opportunities, rather than resting players. I think the team selection showed that, a lot of guys have trained really well," added Gavin.

"The strength of the squad is the sum of its parts and I think we could see that today. Anybody who was on the pitch there put in a really big shift, for the team, not for themselves, they played for each other and that was the rationale from the management team's perspective, to see that.

"Obviously it creates more challenges for us now going into next Saturday. A lot of players put their hands up today to travel and that's a great way to have it."

The game looked as good as done when Flynn scored Dublin's first goal on 21 minutes. It put Dublin six to the good, a lead that was extended to 11 points (2-12 to 0-7) by half-time.

Four goals would follow on the restart with Eoghan O'Gara grabbing a brace and subs Gary Patterson and Donie Smith replying for Roscommon. By that stage, however, the game had lost all shape and meaning.

For the Rossies it saw a return of old failings with their defensive frailties laid bare once more. In the end they conceded 4-24, the same tally they shipped to Tyrone on their last visit to HQ.

"That's (defence) definitely something that has to be looked at, there's no question about that," selector Ger Dowd, who was standing in for suspended manager Kevin McStay, said afterwards.

"You're not going to win games if you're conceding 4-24 or anything like it, so it's a problem we've had, and one we seem to run into against the top teams.

"I think it would be fair to say that we've probably beaten everybody at our level or a little above that. But when it comes to facing the top teams, the Dublins, the Tyrones, we come up a bit short, so that's something we have to address and work on.

"The lads are young, and there's a good, positive attitude around the place, despite the heavy defeat. It's still nice to be in Croke Park, it's the fifth All-Ireland quarter-final for this group in two years. Five All-Ireland quarter-finals, we must be doing something right as well."

Roscommon's year is over but for Gavin and Dublin, who are now just two wins from four All-Ireland titles on the bounce, the wheel turns quickly. They have just six days to prepare for a clash with a Galway side who will be smarting from their home defeat at the hands of Monaghan.

"It (the shirt turnaround) is a challenge, for any team, but everyone has the same challenge so it's an equal playing field. But as I said our rationale was to give those players opportunities. At this stage of the season, they're very well conditioned. Any of the teams can turn things around in that period of time so I don't see an issue."

SCORERS - Dublin: C Costello 0-9 (1 45, 2f); E O'Gara 2-2; P Flynn 1-3; K McManamon 0-3 (2f); MD Macauley 1-0; C McHugh 0-2; P McMahon, P Small, J Small, M Schutte, P Andrews 0-1 each. Roscommon: D Smith 1-3 (1 45); D Murtagh 0-6 (2f); G Patterson 1-0; C Lennon, P Kelly 0-2 each; C Murtagh (1f), C Devaney, N Kilroy 0-1 each.

Dublin - S Cluxton 8; P McMahon 6, D Daly 7, M Fitzsimons 5; E Lowndes 7, J Small 7, J McCaffrey 7; C O'Sullivan 7, MD Macauley 7; P Flynn 8, K McManamon 6, C Basquel 6; C Costello 9, E O'Gara 7, P Andrews 6. Subs: J McCarthy 6 for O'Sullivan, C Mullally 6 for McCaffrey (both h-t), P Small 6 for Costello, M Schutte 7 for J Small (both 44), C McHugh 7 for O'Gara (53), A McGowan for Daly (60), B Brogan for Schutte (61-67).

Roscommon - J Featherston 6; D Murray 6, P Domican 5, N McInerney 5; J McManus 6, D Pettit 6, R Timothy 6; T O'Rourke 6, E Smith 6; N Kilroy 6, C Murtagh 6, C Devaney 6; D Murtagh 8, B Stack 6, C Lennon 6. Subs: G Patterson 7 for Timothy, P Kelly 7 for Kilroy (both h-t), I Kilbride 6 for Domican, D Smith 8 for Stack (both 49), C Cregg 6 for C Murtagh (56), S McDermott for McManus (66)

REF - C Reilly (Meath).

Irish Independent

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