Cormac Costello hits 1-12 as ruthless Dublin obliterate Louth in O'Moore Park
Dublin 5-21 Louth 0-10
THESE early Leinster SFC matches have had a tedious quality to them lately but Dublin's seasonal opener in Portlaoise this evening contained more entertainment that is strictly customary for May.
For a start, the five-in-a-row chasing Dubs played with a silky fluency not seen in the League, albeit against lower-grade opposition in Louth, scoring five goals of exceptional quality and winning by 26 points.
We had something of a statement performance from Cormac Costello, who in what remarkably was just his third Championship start for Dublin, scored scored 1-12 (10f, 1 '45) .
We also a first half red card for Paul Mannion and an inter-county comeback for Rory O'Carroll.
In total, just 14, 380 people came through the turnstiles of O'Moore Park this evening but those who did saw a Dublin team clicked smoothly into recognisible form.
Mostly the first half chugged along expected lines but two incidents changed the dynamic of the game.
After 23 minutes, having squandered three previous chances, Dublin scored the game's first goal, an event that felt like an inevitability from the start.
Earlier, Louth goalkeeper Fergal Sheeky had saved good opportunities for Con O'Callaghan and Niall Scully while the always energetic Costello poked a shot wide having casually zoomed past three tacklers.
Then in the 23rd minute, at the end of a move of precision running and passing, O'Callaghan played a one/two and on the edge of the square and had his palmed attempt saved again.
This time, however, the ball fell at his feet and it appeared as though the Cuala man had the last touch.
That made it 1-7 to 0-3 and seemed for all the world like sucking all the drama out of the remainder of the game but just two minutes later, Dublin were reduced to 14 men.
Mannion went high into the chest of Conal McKeever with his shoulder and referee Jermone Henry deemed it worthy of a straight red.
Otherwise, the first half was notable mostly for the performance of Costello who, in a remarkable anomaly, was starting just his third Championship match in what is his seventh season in the Dublin panel.
In the absence of Dean Rock, he kicked nine placed balls from nine attempts, including a '45 and a couple from awkward angles.
He was, along with Mannion until his untimely departure, Dublin's best forward in the half from open play, sniping at his man and opening space for others.
Dublin led 1-12 to 0-4 at the break and Mannion had been the only collateral damage.
The second half started along identically dominant lines for Dublin.
Costello missed his 11th placed ball kick of the match from close range but collected the rebound off an upright and pointed from play off his left anyway.
In a two man inside-forward line, O'Callaghan was a battering ram, winning everything and taking on anyone. By the time he was taken off, the 2017 Young Footballer of the Year had been fouled for five scoreable frees.
Brian Fenton, in classy playmaker mode all throughout, scored Dublin's second goal at the end of another sumptuous move although the biggest cheer of the day came in the 47th minute Rory O'Carroll made his first appearance for Dublin in three years and eight months.
He was lively too, winning a kick-out with his first inter-county touch since September 2015 and taking two short-range passes in a move that ended in a point for Niall Scully.
Another sub Michael Darragh Macauley, got Dublin's third goal after exemplary work from Paddy Small and despite their numerical advantage, Louth struggled to string together moves under the oppresive physicality of the All-Ireland champions.
Costello scored Dublin's fourth goal while Philly McMahon, who found himself in open space square in front of the Louth goal, made it three goals from the Dublin bench.
Bigger challenges lie ahead.
SCORERS - Dublin: C Costello 1-12 (9f, 1 '45), B Fenton 1-1, C O'Callaghan, P McMahon, MD Macauley 1-0 each, P Mannion 0-2, C Kilkenny, N Scully, P Small, K McManamon (f), M Fitzsimons 0-1 each. Louth: E Burns 0-4 (2f), J McEneaney 0-2, C Downey, C McKeever, A McDonnell, E Callaghan 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; D Byrne, C O'Sullivan, M Fitzsimons; J McCaffrey, J Small, J McCarthy; B Fenton, D Gavin; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; P Mannion, C O'Callaghan, C Costello. Subs: MD Macauley for Gavin (40), P McMahon for O'Sullivan (40), R O'Carroll for McCaffrey (47), P Small for O'Callaghan (47), K McManamon for Scully (54), S Bugler for Costello (63)
LOUTH: F Sheeky; F Donohoe, E Carolan, J Craven; A Williams, B Duffy, J Clutterbuck; T Durnin, J Califf; C Downey, J McEneaney, C McKeever; A McDonnell, R Burns, D Byrne. Subs: D Corcoran for Donohoe (h-t), S Mulroy for Byrne (h-t), C Early for Califf (43), D Maguire for Clutterbuck (46), E Callaghan for Craven (54 black card), E Duffy for McEneaney (60)
REF: J Henry (Mayo)