Tuesday 16 January 2018

Dublin turn on the power to demolish Lilywhites in Croke Park stroll

Dublin 5-18 Kildare 0-14

Dean Rock beats Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan to score the opening goal for Dublin yesterday DAVID MAHER / SPORTSFILE
Dean Rock beats Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan to score the opening goal for Dublin yesterday DAVID MAHER / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The competitive element lasted all of 12 minutes, leaving Kildare facing almost a further hour of merciless punishment.

There was nothing they could except endure its full horror and hope their spirit wasn't completely crushed before they relaunch for the All-Ireland qualifier clash with Offaly.

There's a world of difference between Dublin in all their powerful splendour and an Offaly team that has come out Division 4, but the reality for Kildare is this: if they replicate yesterday's performance, their season could be over by mid-afternoon next Saturday.

Nobody expected them to beat Dublin - in fact, even coming close wasn't regarded as very likely - but the manner and extent of yesterday's demolition was beyond serious.

After booking a place in the Leinster final for the 10th time in 11 seasons quite early on, Dublin throttled back significantly, happy to freewheel past hapless opponents, who might have been as well off if they lost narrowly to Laois in the quarter-final.

That may sound defeatist but, in purely practical terms, it would have sent Kildare into the qualifiers in a far better frame of mind than is currently the case.

Kildare's Alan Smith tries to escape the attentions of Dublin players (left to right) John Small, Rory O'Carroll, and Cian O'Sullivan DÁIRE BRENNAN/SPORTSFILE
Kildare's Alan Smith tries to escape the attentions of Dublin players (left to right) John Small, Rory O'Carroll, and Cian O'Sullivan DÁIRE BRENNAN/SPORTSFILE

Now, they must regroup very quickly for a season-defining test with the haunting memory of yesterday's trimming fresh in their minds.

Searching for positives before heading into the qualifiers is a common theme for teams beaten in the provincial championships, but it's a futile pursuit for Kildare because there were none to be gleaned from yesterday's shambles.

Dublin would, no doubt, have been just as dominant against several other sides but that's no consolation to Kildare. Nor can they point to Dublin's high-octane game as the sole reason for their difficulties.

The truth is that they contributed enormously to their tale of woe, beginning with an opening chapter where their failure to exploit good opportunities was a serious waste of precious possession.

The general pre-match view was that Kildare needed to make a good start to have any chance of taking Dublin even slightly outside their comfort zone.

And when Emmet Bolton sauntered forward to kick the opening point after 20 seconds, it raised hopes among Lilywhite loyalists that it might be the start of an exciting afternoon.

Kildare's Emmet Bolton shows the pain of defeat in Croke Park RAMSEY CARDY / SPORTSFILE
Kildare's Emmet Bolton shows the pain of defeat in Croke Park RAMSEY CARDY / SPORTSFILE

It was followed by Dublin being on the wrong side of a Hawk-Eye call after Paul Flynn's shot had been signalled as a point.

Maybe it was going to be an interesting day after all. If only!

Kildare wasted two good openings for points, before Padraig Fogarty was robbed by Johnny Cooper as he wound up for a shot on goal.

It was a brilliant, one-handed intervention by Cooper, who flicked the ball out of Fogarty's control.

It meant that by the time Ciaran Kilkenny scored Dublin's opening point in the sixth minute, Kildare might easily have had 1-3 on the board.

Even then, it's probable that Dublin would have calmly worked their way through the problem but, instead, they found themselves level and ready to crank up the power mechanisms.

That heralded the arrival of Kildare's first big test. As expected, they had set up conservatively, dropping their wing forwards back in an attempt to clog Dublin's approach routes.

Dublin would have expected that and set about counteracting it with the simple tactic of running directly at their opponents.

It was basic man-to-man stuff and, once again, Kildare didn't match up. In fact, they had no answer to Dublin's direct running, crisp passing and intelligent positional play.

With Kildare's game plan disintegrating before their eyes and few players doing well in the individual match-ups, a serious difficulty rapidly escalated into a full-blown crisis.

Dean Rock steered in Dublin's first goal in the ninth minute and Bernard Brogan cracked home their second four minutes later. It left Kildare seven points adrift and facing the high probability that they were on their way to comprehensive thrashing.

And so it proved. Kildare didn't score for a 17-minute spell, during which they missed some easy chances and, by half-time, their wides count stood at eight.

It was an error rate they could not afford, especially since Dublin had struck for a third goal in stoppage time, which helped them to a 3-10 to 0-6 lead at the interval.

Kildare came close to conceding a fourth goal on the re-start but were rescued by goalkeeper, Mark Donnellan, who made a terrific save from Brogan.

It was the start of a sloppy period by Dublin, who scored only one point in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, while Kildare kicked five points to cut the deficit to nine.

It was still very much in damage limitation territory for Kildare, but a continuation might have provided some psychological nourishment for their trek into the qualifiers,

However, Dublin gradually rose their precision levels and quickly regained full control. They out-scored Kildare by 2-7 to 0-3 in the final 20 minutes, the goals coming from Diarmuid Connolly (penalty) in the 64th minute and Bernard Brogan four minutes later. The penalty incident brought double misery for Kildare, who had goalkeeper, Donnellan black-carded for hauling down Dean Rock.

Brogan's second goal took his haul to 2-3 and it was a good day too for his older brother, Alan, who scored 0-3 after coming in as a sub in the 43rd minute.

Despite winning by 19 points, Dublin looked as if they were driving well below top gear for long periods. But it was still more than adequate against a Kildare side that came nowhere close to testing them, except for the early minutes.

It left them completely bereft as they fall ever further behind a Dublin team that continues to see the rest of Leinster as distant specks in their rear-view mirror.

Despite that, yesterday's attendance beat the 50,000-mark but there must be concerns that public interest will wane if Dublin continue to out-gun their Leinster rivals so easily.

They have averaged 16-point wins for the last two years and increased it to an average of 23 points for this year alone.

It's a level of dominance not even enjoyed by the great Dublin team of the 1970s, who were regularly tested in Leinster.

That's not the case now - indeed Dublin's grip is getting tighter by the year.

Game at a glance

Man of the match: Bernard Brogan (Dublin). Plenty of Dublin candidates, led by Bernard Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly and Ciaran Kilkenny, who scored 4-10 between them. Brogan’s 2-3 from play gives him the edge.

Talking point: What can be done to revive the Leinster Championship? It has become embarrassingly easy for Dublin to lock it away every year.

Magic moment: There was a moment of defensive genius in the sixth minute when Jonny Cooper got a hand to the ball to dispossess Padraig Fogarty as he was about to shoot for goal.

Ref watch: The free count was relatively low (34) but David Coldrick ran out of patience with niggly clashes and flashed one black and 11 yellows.

What's next? Dublin play Westmeath in the Leinster final on July 12; Kildare play Offaly in the All-Ireland qualifiers next Saturday.

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