Saturday 24 August 2019

'I'd expect to see one or two fellas coming in' - Jim Gavin still open to Diarmuid Connolly return

Dublin 5-21 Louth 0-10

Sharp shooter: Cormac Costello scores one of Dublin’s five goals during their hammering of Louth. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Sharp shooter: Cormac Costello scores one of Dublin’s five goals during their hammering of Louth. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

At either end of the seemingly endless corridor under the main stand in O'Moore Park, both managers gave their assessment of what they had just seen.

At the end, 26 points separated their teams. Dublin looked as mean and relentless as they have at any point under Jim Gavin, but the Dublin manager was his usual unmoved self, hailing the humility of his players, who had just handed out another Leinster humiliation.

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Brian Fenton signs autographs for supporters after Dublin’s victory in Portlaoise on Saturday night. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Brian Fenton signs autographs for supporters after Dublin’s victory in Portlaoise on Saturday night. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Down the hall, Wayne Kierans emerged from the Louth dressing room like a man leaving a morgue. He'd identified the body, but the life had long since been pulled from his men.

After their late surge to beat Wexford in their opening round clash, Kierans insisted there was no downside to a fixture with the five-in-a-row chasing champions.

Perhaps now he was reconsidering that view.

"I don't think it could go any worse," Kierans offered candidly. "Maybe if they had 15 men, but it was pretty bad from our point of view.

"Obviously they have serious quality and it was a real eye-opener up close how good they are and that's not really a surprise. But the surprise was I thought we could have more quality and that's the annoying thing.

Underestimated

"I wouldn't have underestimated how good they are, but I would have underestimated how much they would put you under pressure to force mistake. And we made an awful lot of mistakes."

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Louth grabbed the first point of the game, but were never really in it. By the sixth minute Fergal Sheeky had pulled off two good saves to deny Dublin goals. By the 20th minute they had hit seven points in a row to lead by six. Their advantage should have been greater by that stage as Cormac Costello shaved the post with an effort that had Sheeky beaten.

A Dublin goal was inevitable and it came through Con O'Callaghan. The Louth defence repelled his first effort, but he got enough on the rebound to force it over the line.

Niall Scully of Dublin in action against Fergal Donohoe and Jim McEneaney of Louth. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Niall Scully of Dublin in action against Fergal Donohoe and Jim McEneaney of Louth. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

From there it was only a matter of by how much Dublin would win and even the first-half dismissal of Paul Mannion - which Gavin felt was harsh - did nothing to halt their gallop. They won their three games in Leinster by an average of 20 points last year and they were on their way to eclipsing that by the break as they led by 1-12 to 0-4.

Dean Rock was one of the most notable absentees from the Dublin starting team, but Costello deputised superbly on the frees, kicking all nine placed balls that came his way in the first-half.

The second-half went along the lines of the first, with Costello running the show. The Whitehall man is in his seventh season with the Dubs but this was just his third Championship start. His talent has never been in doubt, but injuries have contributed to a long apprenticeship. Here he looked ready to assume significant responsibility in the Dublin forward line. He had 1-12 to his name by the time he was called ashore.

Dublin emptied the bench and managed to pile on more misery, with Louth's challenge almost non-existent.

Conal McKeever of Louth in action against Rory O'Carroll of Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Conal McKeever of Louth in action against Rory O'Carroll of Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Afterwards Kierans reckoned the Dubs had identified their kick-out patterns and went about dismantling it.

In possession they were almost cruel. Subs Philly McMahon and Michael Darragh Macauley found the net, while Rory O'Carroll made a first appearance for the Dubs since the All-Ireland final of 2015.

"We welcomed him back," Gavin said. "But I suppose he's in based on his performances with Kilmacud Crokes. He's in based on his Championship form. He's back. It's been a seamless transition for him.

"But it's a mark of the man that he has applied himself so well, even last year down in New Zealand - training away to get himself ready for his return to Kilmacud Crokes and possibly to the senior football team.

"That shows his dedication. But we've gone into plenty of battles with Rory, back since his U-21 days. And we know each other really well."

And, once again, the Sky Blues boss he left the door open for a return for Diarmuid Connolly.

"We had league games on Wednesday, we were looking at those, we have league games tomorrow. We'll have an early start to get out to watch some of those as well.

"I'd expect to see one or two fellas coming in from clubs who were out there.

"So we've always had an open door policy and if guys are playing well and we ask them and they want to commit to the Dublin football team then we'd be delighted to have them."

For Kierans and Louth, the goal now is simply to regroup.

"It was a difficult experience, a chastening experience," the manager admitted.

"I still rather the opportunity to go and experience it and see where we are at.

"I wanted the situation to be 'well look they are an awesome outfit but we did X Y and Z well' and we didn't and that's the annoying thing."

SCORERS - Dublin: C Costello 1-12 (9f, 1 '45), B Fenton 1-1, C O'Callaghan, P McMahon, MD Macauley 1-0 each, P Mannion, N Scully 0-2, C Kilkenny, P Small, K McManamon (f), M Fitzsimons 0-1 each. Louth: E Burns 0-4 (2f), J McEneaney 0-2, C Downey, C McKeever, A McDonnell, E Callaghan 0-1 each.

DUBLIN - S Cluxton 7; D Byrne 7, C O'Sullivan 6, M Fitzsimons 7; J McCaffrey 7, J Small 7, J McCarthy 7; B Fenton 9, D Gavin 5; N Scully 7, C Kilkenny 6, B Howard 7; P Mannion 6, C O'Callaghan 7, C Costello 9 Subs: MD Macauley 7 for Gavin (40), P McMahon 7 for O'Sullivan (40), R O'Carroll 6 for McCaffrey (47), P Small 7 for O'Callaghan (47), K McManamon 6 for Scully (54), S Bugler for Costello (63)

LOUTH - F Sheeky 7; F Donohoe 5, E Carolan 5, J Craven 5; A Williams 6, B Duffy 6, J Clutterbuck 5; T Durnin 5, J Califf 5; C Downey 6, J McEneaney 7, C McKeever 6; A McDonnell 6, R Burns 6, D Byrne 5. Subs: D Corcoran 5 for Donohoe (ht), S Mulroy 5 for Byrne (ht), C Early 5 for Califf (43), D Maguire 5 for Clutterbuck (46), E Callaghan 5 for Craven (BC 54), E Duffy for McEneaney (60)

REF - J Henry (Mayo)

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