Dublin - The Class of 95
NAVAN was Dublin’s destination, like in the previous round, as they faced Laois in glorious sunshine on July 9 and despite failing to fire on all cylinders, they were more than worthy 1-13 to 0-9 victors.
This was the afternoon that Jason Sherlock really came to the attention of not just the 15,000 or so Dublin supporters that travelled to Páirc Tailteann but also to the nation’s consciousness as he scored a goal as brilliant as it was unusual.
A pass from substitute Jim Gavin was placed perfectly into Sherlock’s path and despite losing his right boot as he turned towards goal, he highlighted all his predatory and single-minded instincts with a crashing effort that left Emmett Burke helpless in the Laois goal.
That goal effectively settled the issue on a day when very few of Dublin’s players operated to their potential and Charlie Redmond, who finished the game as Dublin’s top scorer once again, was more than aware of Dublin’s inadequacies as he reflected on the overall display in his Evening Herald column.
"They say it’s the sign of a good team to play badly and win. Personally, I’m just glad we didn’t play well and lose! We set out with the sole objective of claiming a place in the Leinster final against Meath. We may not have done it in style, but we did it.
"At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. A lot of the players will be looking over their shoulders at the guys in the reserves who are waiting for their chance, and there will be a lot of competition for places in the run up to the final," added Redmond.
Gavin, for one, did his chances no harm as he enhanced his starting ambitions with a strong 20-minute cameo from the bench while Ciarán Walsh proved a more than adequate replacement for hamstring victim, Dermot Deasy, at full-back.
If Laois were to turn over the Leinster champions, they needed to avail of all the scoring opportunities that presented themselves and in that context, the gilt-edged goal chance spurned by Damien Delaney in the opening minute was a setback from which their forward line never truly recovered.
Delaney did finish the contest with six points to his name, including five frees, with lively wing-forward Michael Lawlor their only other contributor on the scoreboard but their inputs were never likely to prove sufficient against the greater all-round scoring threat of their opponents.
Dublin were not exactly in free-flowing mood up front either with Paul Clarke the pick of the forward division with three excellent points from play while Dessie Farrell prompted intelligently throughout without gaining a deserved tangible reward in terms of scores.
It mattered little however, such was the paucity of Laois options in attack and also at midfield, where Brian Stynes delivered another hugely influential showing in both his defensive and attacking duties.
The Dubs elected to play against the breeze in the opening half and Deleney’s chance aside, they could feel justifiably pleased with the 0-5 apiece deadlock at half-time.
Indeed, Sherlock could well have netted in the 21st minute after fine approach play from Mick Galvin but his low shot cannoned off the upright and away to safety as both teams struggled to make any impression despite the near perfect conditions.
Stynes and Paul Bealin continued to gain primary possession after the turnaround and although there was incremental improvement in terms of their fluidity in the second-half, Dublin could only breathe easily once Sherlock put five points between the teams in the 57th minute.
Sherlock’s arrival on the scene was all the more vital given the struggles that Seán Cahill endured on the day combined with Jack Sheedy’s continued absence through injury with Dublin’s rearguard gaining the bulk of the plaudits.
In JJ Barrett’s player ratings, Paddy Moran was credited with his "best ever game in a Dublin jersey", while Paul Curran was "back to his best", with both players receiving scores of nine out of 10.
Similar marks would be required from a larger number of players for their upcoming provincial decider against Meath with Redmond licking his lips at the prospect of facing Dublin’s bitter adversaries.
"We’re still alive in Leinster with the prospect of facing up to our old rivals in the final. The treadmill will start turning again for the Meath game ... and I can hardly wait."
Don't miss part two of Dublin – The Class of '95 free with next Friday's Herald and on Independent.ie.