Dubs too good as Monaghan sink at the deep end again
Dublin 1-19 Monaghan 0-12
If Dublin are the question, then Malachy O'Rourke has no idea what the answer is.
Whenever his Monaghan side faced Dublin in recent seasons they were more than competitive. However, those games were in the league and Saturday night in Croke Park was the big leagues. When it came to it, Monaghan sank like a stone.
There was no one area in particular that O'Rourke could point to; nothing that took down the house of cards. His side were swept away in every area.
The most significant resistance came from half-time substitute Conor McCarthy. He kicked three points on his introduction, but everywhere else Monaghan were overrun.
Watching the game, it was hard to fathom that it was only April when Dublin's bench rescued them from defeat against the Farney in Clones.
"I think the one big thing is if we want to survive in the league in Division One against the top teams, we have to prepare really well," O'Rourke said, by way of explaining what had changed in those few months.
"We didn't kill ourselves training by no means, but you're still sending out the same players week after week even if there's wee bits of injuries and so on.
"If you want to win the games, you have to do that, so it means the boys are playing a lot of football.
"I suppose there's a physical tiredness, there might be a mental fatigue there as well, whereas Dublin, in fairness, probably that day some of their regulars weren't there. I'd say they hadn't done much training so it's a completely different competition.
"We can't afford to do that. The likes of Dublin, with their strength of panel, can. So I think that was a big thing.
"It's a different environment down here as well. I suppose you're a lot more comfortable in Clones, whereas coming down here if you make mistakes you can be exploited fairly severely and I suppose that's what happened."
Monaghan were out of the game from early on. They scored through Conor McManus on four minutes, but wouldn't trouble the umpires for another 26 minutes after that. Dublin weren't exactly tearing them apart, but they were moving out of sight with mechanical ease.
They might have had a goal, but Rory Beggan stayed big to deny Con O'Callaghan. That save did little to halt Dublin, though. By half-time they had six different names on the scoresheet and led 0-11 to 0-3.
McCarthy grabbed two of the first three points of the second-half, but the moment that perhaps summed up the game came in the 40th minute. Dublin won a free and kicked a long, threatening ball in on top of the Monaghan full-back line, only for referee Conor Lane to pull things back as he tidied up some paperwork.
When he allowed play to resume, Dublin tried the exact same trick. This time, Colin Walshe fumbled into the hands of Paddy Andrews, who found Dean Rock. He flicked to the net to stretch the lead to 11 points.
Monaghan grabbed the next point through a 45th-minute long-range Rory Beggan free - incredibly, it was just the third free that Dublin had conceded.
They fashioned another goal chance, but Jack McCarron's shot was straight at record-breaker Stephen Cluxton, who moved to the top of the all-time championship appearance charts on 89 appearances.
Cluxton batted the effort away and Dublin swept up the field to add another point as the examples of the differences between the sides just kept coming.
After that, it was just a matter of housekeeping. Two late Conor McManus frees saw the Farney secure their first back-to-back scores of the game, but they'd finish the game with 14 men after Fintan Kelly was forced off due to a heavy knock and they had used all their subs.
Finally, a dull affair came to an end.
Only Mayo and Roscommon have provided any entertainment in the quarter-finals this year, meaning the Super 8s that will be in place next year might not be so super.
Dublin won't care. This was their eighth consecutive All-Ireland quarter-final win, meaning they have not lost at this stage since the 'startled earwigs' game against Kerry in 2009. The days when the August Bank Holiday weekend meant routine humiliation for Dublin football are scarcely a memory now.
Heading into their All-Ireland semi-final clash with Tyrone on August 27, Dublin look in rude health. Paul Flynn was back on the pitch along with Michael Darragh Macauley, while Diarmuid Connolly will also come back into contention. Keeping them all happy will be Gavin's challenge.
"One of their strongest characteristics is that sense of the collective. They realise they are about the sum of their parts. Of course they all want to get game-time and as a management team we understand that. But the players are willing, if they don't start, to come on and play whatever part they are asked to play," said Gavin.
The special status that comes with winning three in a row is tantalisingly close now. Monaghan, meanwhile, go home with O'Rourke reluctant to make any decision on his future.
"Coming off a defeat like that, it's just hard to take. It's so disappointing. Look, it's not the time to reflect on things like that. It's whatever's best for the players, it's whatever is best for the county board," he said.
"Obviously I have to look at things myself, it's not the best time to be asked the question. It's just so disappointing, we expected more of ourselves, that's the most disappointing thing."
Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 1-8 (7f, 1 '45), P Andrews, P Mannion 0-3 each, C O'Callaghan, J McCarthy, J McCaffrey, E O'Gara, P Flynn 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 0-4 (3f), C McCarthy 0-3, D Hughes, C Walshe, K O'Connell, R Beggan (1f), R McAnespie 0-1 each.
Dublin: S Cluxton 7; J Cooper 7, M Fitzsimons 8, P McMahon 6; J Small 7, C O'Sullivan 6, J McCaffrey 7; B Fenton 7, J McCarthy 7; E Lowndes 6, C O'Callaghan 7, C Kilkenny 7; P Mannion 8, P Andrews 7, D Rock 8 Subs: B Brogan 6 for Lowndes (41), D Daly 6 for Small, P Flynn 7 for McCarthy (both 51), E O'Gara 7 for Andrews (54), MD Macauley 6 for Kilkenny (58), D Byrne for Cooper (61)
Monaghan: R Beggan 8; D Wylie 6, C Walshe 6, R Wylie 6; K Duffy 6, F Kelly 7, K O'Connell 7; K Hughes 6, D Hughes 6; D Ward 6, S Carey 6, R McAnespie 6; G Doogan 6, J McCarron 6, C McManus 7 Subs: C McCarthy 8 for Doogan (35), O Duffy 6 for Ward (HT), D Mone 6 for O'Connell, V Corey 6 for R Wylie (both 44), D Malone 6 for Carey (56), N McAdam 6 for D Hughes (63).
Ref - C Lane (Cork)