Dubs stand-ins keep the blue flag flying high
Dublin 1-15 DCU 0-11
Same blue jerseys, but different faces, unfamiliar names bar a few former underage medal winners, and still the Dublin machine produced a winning start to 2017, utilising a carefully chosen selection of club players.
No wonder Paul Clarke, stand-in manager for the O'Byrne Cup in Jim Gavin's absence, was happy with the performance and the result, while DCU boss Niall Moyna voiced his fear for the rest of Leinster - and also the Dubs - unless the province can produce credible Championship opposition.
"For the other counties in Leinster, I'm really concerned that the gap is going to grow to such an extent that Dublin won't get a game until they get to the All-Ireland quarter-final and that could come back to haunt them," said Moyna.
"We've seen big changes in Meath and with Cian O'Neill in Kildare. I would like to see that gap being bridged but I think it's actually widening. It's scary."
His team of students were 1-9 to 05 down at half-time, and finished up seven points adrift.
DCU might have pushed the Dubs a bit closer in the first half had they taken advantage of a penalty awarded in the 28th minute when Eoin O'Brien hauled down Tom Lahiffe.
Kevin Feely stepped up to take the kick but Dublin keeper Evan Comerford dived the right way, palmed the ball onto an upright, and gratefully collected the rebound.
Four minutes later Paul Hudson stroked the ball to the DCU net to finish a move involving Shane Boland, former U-21 All-Ireland winner Conor McHugh and Niall Walsh.
Both sides took advantage of the Leinster Council's generosity in allowing unlimited subs for the competition. Dublin used seven subs and DCU nine.
It might have confused at least some of the estimated 2,000 fans in attendance, but the intensity levels did not drop.
The tackles became somewhat reckless late in the match, and referee Cormac Reilly flashed the yellow card five times, booking three DCU players and two from Dublin.
For Clarke, a 1995 Sam Maguire Cup winner alongside Gavin, it's a "busman's holiday". He and fellow former Dub Jim Brogan will take this Dublin selection as far as it can go in the O'Byrne Cup and then bow out gracefully.
Their starting full-forward line of Paul Hudson, Michael Deegan - son of ex-Dubs star Mick - and Conor McHugh raided to good effect, and scored 1-10 between them.
"The inside line are probably the household names. They've won at minor and under-21 and some of them have performed and played at senior level," said Clarke.
"They seem to have a good understanding amongst them but the supply of the ball was key as well. They make the moves but the ball going in quickly and nicely to them."
Gavin and his All-Ireland winners return from the team holiday in Jamaica next Saturday but will take a back seat until the Leinster pre-season competition is over for the Dubs.
If this group can present the Dublin overlord with food for thought when he selects his National League and ultimately his Championship panel, Clarke will be happy for any players who can force their way into Gavin's squad.
Lest anyone think that Gavin's absence means lack of interest, they can forget it. Gavin monitored the Dublin Championship for likely lads, and presented Clarke with the panel he wants to see on duty for the O'Byrne Cup.
Stats guru Ray Boyne was at Parnell Park to compile the relevant facts and figures. The game was videoed and Gavin will have a full report on performances, so it is no wonder the effort by the Dubs yesterday was wholehearted and consistent throughout the match.
Scorers - Dublin: P Hudson 1-3 (0-1f), M Deegan 0-4 (1f), C McHugh 0-3, S Cunningham 0-2, J Whelan, N Walsh, G Ivory 0-1 each. DCU: R Burns 0-4fs, D Mannix 0-2, D Ward, M Plunkett, E O'Connor, C Mulligan, T O'Reilly 0-1 each.
Dublin - E Comerford; J Smith, E O'Brien, R McGowan; B Howard, C Reddan, N Scully; J Whelan, R Deegan; G Sweeney, S Boland, N Walsh; P Hudson, M Deegan, C McHugh. Subs: G Ivory for P Hudson (46), T Shields for E O'Brien (48), R Gaughan for N Walsh (52), S Cunningham for C McHugh (57), R O'Brien for S Boland (63), R Hazley for J Whelan (63), S Newcombe for R Deegan (70).
DCU - S Mannion; E Smith, D O'Neill, B Kerr; S Lavin, K Feely, D Ward; C McGonagle, H McFadden; E O'Connor, M Plunkett, T Lahiffe; D Mannix, N Murphy, R Burns. Subs: S Carthy for N Murphy (32), D Neary for D Ward (h-t), E Smyth for D Mannix (h-t), C Mulligan for T Lahiffe h-t), M Corcoran for M Plunkett), T O'Reilly for E O'Connor (57), B Cawley for E Smith (61), T Galligan for C McGonagle (68), C Doran for B Kerr (68).
Ref - C Reilly (Meath)