Monday 18 December 2017

Gilroy takes heart from slog

colm keys

The post-match lexicon from both managers was about as accurate as it could be. There was no attempt to dress it up as anything other than what it was: an appalling spectacle.

Dublin's Pat Gilroy drew on adjectives like messy, dogged and awkward, suggesting that the previous week's exertions had left all the players tired, stiff and sore. Derry's Damien Cassidy saw it as "a real hash" with no real method, the ball pinging back and forth rather aimlessly at times.


The significance for Dublin was that it was the first time in recent memory that they put opening back-to-back league victories together (save for 2008 when they got a walkover from Cork).

The habit of beating reigning All-Ireland champions one week and losing the next has been spiked for now. That must represent some form of progress, as much psychological as anything else.

That it was Derry who had ripped them asunder in the corresponding Division 1 league match 12 months earlier won't have been lost on Gilroy either. Every inch counts.

Cassidy produced a statistic that really encapsulated their night. They lost possession 32 or 33 times in the course of the match. "There's no way you're going to win a game of football by giving away that amount of ball," he suggested. It was as much down to Dublin's ferocity in the tackle, as it was Derry's apathy that they coughed up so much ball.

Eamon Fennell, for one, delivered at least three crushing tackles in the middle of the park during the second half to send play in other direction.

That meant as much as either of the sweet points he scored in either half or the balls he plucked from the night air.

He's clearly not just a transfer cause celebre. There's substance and heart to him right now. A seven-point win probably flattered the home side because the game was that bad for so long, no one deserved such a cushion.

The first half was awful, with Dublin striking clear by 0-4 to 0-1 after 11 minutes, but failing to score for the remainder of the half as Derry hit five unanswered points. But the difference was fitness, allowing Dublin to pull clear in the last 20 minutes to justify the 'double-up' regime of the last month that sees them braving the early-morning blues twice weekly.

It hasn't been in vain. "Tonight Dublin had fitness to pull away in the last 15 minutes; that was the difference," contended Cassidy.

Derry didn't score in the final 30 minutes, James Kielt's well-directed 42nd-minute score closing their account prematurely.

It gave them a 0-7 to 0-5 lead, but with Bernard Brogan on the field for the last 20 minutes, Dublin began to pour through gaps that previously weren't there and outscored their opponents by 1-6 to 0-0. Brogan didn't do everything right during his brief cameo, but if Dublin are to keep progressing in this league, they'll need him on the field for much longer than this.

Beside him Kevin McManamon once again showed some potential, forcing Cassidy to replace Brian Og McAlary with Michael McGoldrick after just 22 minutes, before the St Jude's man scored a wonderful solo goal on 65 minutes.

Making the most of one of those many Derry turnovers, he found himself in isolation with Derry midfielder Patsy Bradley and plenty of space around him. It wasn't quite Vincent Clerc and 'Bull' Hayes, but McManamon sensed the advantage anyway and went for it, clearing a path past Bradley and finishing confidently.

It was a moment of inspiration, but on reflection, Dublin will be happier with the compact nature of their defence, albeit against a Derry attack that badly missed Eoin and Paddy Bradley.

Cian O'Sullivan was largely dominant on Kielt, while Paul Conlon, Rory O'Carroll and Paul Griffin could take satisfaction from their night's work.

Fennell continues to make strong claims as a future midfield anchorman, while Michael McAuley's rough edges don't dilute his enthusiasm and willingness. Gilroy was satisfied that the malaise of the first half, when they were far too defensive, was corrected.

"Both teams put in a huge effort last week and it told in the first half. It was messy, we were all over the place, our shape was all over the place. In fairness we were a lot better in the second half," he said, crediting the fitness of Sigerson Cup players as a factor.

For Cassidy the defeat didn't sting. "We're not too downhearted to be honest. It's the second game of the league and what we're trying to do, you're going to have setbacks." He was far more exercised about the loss of Eoin Bradley with a retrospective suspension from the previous week, resulting from the "discriminatory" practice of trial by TV.

"What you have is one team on television getting hammered and another team who is not subject to the same analysis on the video afterwards getting away free by comparison to how we were treated. It's quite clear that it is discriminatory against teams who play on TV.

"John Bannon's club has a motion going forward to Congress this year and I'm delighted as a referee he is the one who instigated that. He clearly understands the pressure which he is brought under after games to review decisions he has made.

"It's just down to the easy way to do a job, an unprofessional way to do it. It comes back to the premise, 'all in or all out'. It's one or the other."

Scorers -- Dublin: K McManamon 1-1, B Brogan 0-3 (0-2f), E Fennell 0-2, M McAuley, R McConnell, B Kelly, D Nelson, B McManamon 0-1 each. Derry: J Kielt 0-4 (0-3f), M Lynch 0-2, A McLoughlin 0-1.

Dublin -- M Savage; P Conlon, R O'Carroll, M Fitzsimons; P Griffin, C O'Sullivan, J Brogan; E Fennell, R McConnell; A Hubbard, M McAuley, K Bonner; T Diamond, B Kelly, K McManamon. Subs: D Nelson for Brogan, B McManamon for Diamond (h-t), D Kelly for Hubbard (49), B Brogan for B Kelly (51), P Casey for K McManamon.

Derry -- B Gillis; B Og McAlary, G O'Kane, D McBride; C Kielt, M Lynch, L Hinphey; F Doherty, Patsy Bradley; J Diver, J Kielt, A McCartney; E Lynn, C O'Boyle, A McLoughlin. Subs: M McGoldrick for McAlary (22), M Craig for McCartney, S Bradley for Lynn (41), B Mullen for O'Boyle (48), L Moore for S Bradley (52).

Ref -- P Hughes (Armagh).

Irish Independent

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