Sunday 25 August 2019

Dublin's physicality is years ahead of ours - Cunningham

Dublin 2-26 Roscommon 0-14

Hands on: Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny does his best to escape the clutches of Roscommon's Sean Mullooly. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Hands on: Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny does his best to escape the clutches of Roscommon's Sean Mullooly. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

Afterwards the Dublin manager trilled about humility and the respect the players brought to their pre-match preparations, before noting that those who didn't get any game-time would come back hungrier to the next training session.

In this environment the cult of personality is anathema and all attempts to lead Jim Gavin into a conversation about Diarmuid Connolly ended up in a cul de sac of generalities.

Roscommon's Cathal Cregg of Roscommon in action against Dublin players, from left, Con O'Callaghan, John Small, Brian Fenton and Paddy Small. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Roscommon's Cathal Cregg of Roscommon in action against Dublin players, from left, Con O'Callaghan, John Small, Brian Fenton and Paddy Small. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Very pleased. Achieved the objective. Happy to get the two points.

It was left to poor Anthony Cunningham, who has seen better days in Croke Park, like many more losing managers before him, to offer a more telling and fitting analysis of the team that seems destined to win a fifth All-Ireland in a row this year.

He knows Dublin have it every way and on Saturday Roscommon were chasing shadows most of the time; overrun, bewildered by the sheer mind-blowing range of options Dublin had when they attacked into the Hill end in the first half.

By the close of that first-half pummelling they found themselves 1-15 to 0-7 in arrears and would play the second-half with a man less after the 34th-minute sending off of Conor Daly, the Roscommon corner-back.

Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham. Photo: Sportsfile
Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham. Photo: Sportsfile

Daly had already been booked when, reflecting Roscommon's increasing exasperation, he tripped the rampaging Con O'Callaghan as he shot through another gap in the visitors' over-worked defence. Barry Cassidy had no choice but to issue a black and then red card.

Roscommon kicked some good scores in the first period, notably from the excellent Conor Cox, and they created three clear goal chances, which is a worry for Dublin after the looseness that allowed Cork 1-17 the weekend before. However, they weren't clinical and at the other end they were being put through the wringer.

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"We'd be a number of years off their physicality," said Cunningham, as Roscommon exited the championship in the group stages for the second year running.

"They're a seasoned team. They've been training at that level that we've just put a solid year's work into. Gym work and physicality, that you now need to have as part of your armour, is a slow burner. It doesn't come overnight.

"As well as that, they've a huge football brain. They've massive athleticism, speed, a strong midfield. Their goalie is probably the most exceptional goalie on kick-outs and has transformed the whole kick-out mantra over the last 10 years. They won the U-20s last night, so they've a lot of players coming through. We can definitely get there, but it will take time."

Dublin, reacting to the Cork game, which they won by 13 points, left out Cian O'Sullivan and recalled Jonny Cooper and James McCarthy for their first starts since recovering from injuries. Rory O'Carroll also came on in the second-half.

Dean Rock started after recent strong bids for attention off the bench and duly scored 1-11, not missing any free from 10 attempts. He scored the first goal in the 15th minute, palming to the net when Roscommon were murdered on their own kick-out, a sweeping move leaving them trampled upon and unable to cope.

Rock applied the finish, and could have had another goal earlier when Paul Mannion's visionary pass with the boot left Rock dangerously positioned near goal. Instead, he elected to fist over the bar.

Mansion drilled over three first-half scores, and O'Callaghan tortured Sean Mullooly with his boundless energy. The Cuala player could have had two goals, one shot slamming off an upright, the other zooming over the crossbar.

Dublin, a man and 11 points to the good at half-time, went out for the second-half intent on making quick work of an opponent now exceedingly fragile.

In five minutes they topped up their account with 1-3, swarming like locusts all over Roscommon. The goal, hammered home by Michael Darragh Macauley, his second in a week, came after sub Fintan Cregg was thieved by the ever industrious Brian Howard.

And that was the signal for Gavin to decide there was no merit in achieving a cricket score. He hauled off his prize forwards, one by one, with both Mannion and Kilkenny lasting only three second-half minutes. McCaffrey followed soon after. Then O'Callaghan.

The changes lessened Dublin's ferocity and over a period of the second-half Roscommon scored six out of the seven points posted. Conor Hussey finished with three from centre-back.

But Dublin responded. From the 63rd minute to the finish they outscored Roscommon 0-7 to 0-1. Paddy Small came on and helped himself to three points.

Bernard Brogan, recalled to the match-day squad for the first time this season, didn't make it off the bench, with the last sub seeing Davy Byrne replace the black carded Macauley.

Cormac Costello, who lost his place to Rock having been hugely impressive for much of Dublin's season in league and championship, watched it all from the bench.

The competition for places is keeping Dublin honest, ensuring that the litany of double-digit wins don't deprive them of their hold on reality.

On they go to Omagh in a fortnight's time to face Tyrone, with Gavin quizzed about the value of finishing the group as winners.

"Any time the guys go on the field to represent Dublin we expect that they do their very best. So our focus is now on that Tyrone game," he said.

Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 1-11 (10f); MD Macauley 1-0, P Mannion, P Small 0-3 each, C Kilkenny, C O'Callaghan, B Fenton 0-2 each, J McCaffrey, K McManamon, N Scully 0-1 each. Roscommon: C Cox 0-7 (6f); C Hussey 0-3, C Compton, D Murtagh, N Daly, S Mullooly 0-1 each.

Dublin - S Cluxton 7; M Fitzsimons 7, P McMahon 7, J Cooper 7; J McCaffrey 8, J McCarthy 7, J Small 8; B Fenton 8, MD Macauley 8; N Scully 7, C Kilkenny 8, B Howard 8; P Mannion 9, C O'Callaghan 9, D Rock 9. Subs: K McManamon 7 & P Small 8 for Kilkenny & Mannion (38 mins); R O'Carroll 7 & E Lowdnes 7 for Fitzsimons & McCaffrey (47); P Andrews 7 for O'Callaghan (52); D Byrne 7 for Macauley (b/c 61).

Roscommon - D O'Malley 7; D Murray 6, S Mullooly 5, C Daly 4; R Daly 6, C Hussey 8, N Daly 7; E Smith 7, S Killoran 6; B Stack 6, C Cregg 6, N Kilroy 6; D Murtagh 6, C Cox 8, C Compton 7. Subs: F Cregg 6 for Killoran (half-time); A Lyons 6 for Compton (45); J McManus 6 for C Cregg (47); A Glennon 6 for Murtagh (52); G Patterson 6 for Murray (60); C McKeon 6 for Kilroy (66). Ref - B Cassidy (Derry)

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