No away day Blues as Dublin secure routine win over Laois
Dublin 2-21 Laois 2-10
JUST in case anyone needed reminding, Dublin gave a little exhibition of their pre-eminence in a Leinster SFC that already looks a done deal this year.
This time, it was Laois on the receiving end. But it could, in truth, just as easily have been any of the other Leinster counties who went down by 11 points to the All-Ireland champions this evening.
Having threatened to pound the O'Moore County into the Nowlan Park soil on the occasion of their first Championship match outside Croke Park in a decade, Dublin contrived to make life a little more awkward for themselves than was strictly necessary tonight.
Still, in keeping with their highly oppressive regime in the province, Dublin didn't spare anything by way of effort tonight in front of 16,764 spectators in the home of Kilkenny GAA.
The concession of two goals within a four minute spell in the second half infused a touch of excitement that, at half-time and with Dublin 11 points and a man up after the sending off of John O'Loughlin, didn't seem possible.
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Dublin's average winning margin in the three prior years of Jim Gavin's reign was just under 16 points.
Their record win in that span is the 27 points they beat Longford by in the opening round last year so against that backdrop, Laois performed comparatively well.
But in truth, the game was probably over as a viable contest after 14 seconds.
That was stage of the match - embryonic though it was - that Dean Rock cut inside after taking possession of a Brian Fenton delivery that hopped away from two would-be Laois pursuers and hit the Laois net.
Rock hit 1-10 (6f) on the night in a performance that ranks easily as his most complete in a Dublin jersey.
Indeed at times, Dublin's score-taking was scintillatingly good in that first-half.
Ciarán Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly and Rock all sent over beautiful executed and smartly-constructed scores.
Connolly's goal, after just four-and-a-half minutes, came after a routine overlap and encouraging hand pass from Michael Darragh Macauley, gave the impression that things would get ugly for a Laois team caught repeatedly flat-footed.
O'Loughlin was red carded by Ciarán Brannigan on the advice of a linesman after striking Macauley in the 27th minute, leaving Laois even more vulnerable to a Dublin onslaught.
It never materialised.
Dublin scored the first two points of the second half but whether their intensity dropped in conjunction with the atmosphere or Laois were biding their time, two gaping holes appeared - one after the other - in their defence.
First Damien O'Connor went steaming through and was fouled by Jonny Cooper and from the resultant penalty, Paul Cahillane struck forcefully past Stephen Cluxton.
Then Stephen Attride took the same central route to Dublin goal and buried Laois's second to cut the gap to six points.
At that stage, Laois had withdrawn big numbers into their own '45 but Dublin casually drew them out and with Rock in top from, they kicked six points on the spin to kill any feint hope of a wholly unlikely comeback.
SCORERS - Dublin: D Rock 1-10 (0-6f), D Connolly 1-4, C Kilkenny 0-4, D Byrne, K McManamon, C O'Callaghan 0-1 each. Laois: P Cahillane 1-2 (1-0 pen, 2f), S Attride 1-0, D Kingston 0-2 (1f), D O'Connor, D Strong, J O'Loughlin, G Walsh, K Meaney, R O'Connor 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; P McMahon, J Cooper, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J Small; B Fenton, MD Macauley; C Kilkenny, K McManamon, D Connolly; P Mannion, D Rock, B Brogan. Subs: M Fitzsimons for McMahon (45), C Costello for Brogan (51), C O'Callaghan for Mannion (56), D Daly for O'Sullivan (59), E Lowndes for Cooper (62), E O'Gara for Rock (63)
LAOIS: G Brody; M Timmons, P Cotter, S Attride; D O'Connor, D Strong, G Dillon; J O'Loughlin, B Quigley; E O'Carroll, P Cahillane, C Begley; D Kingston, G Walsh, C Meredith. Subs: K Meaney for O'Carroll (30), N Donoher for Walsh (h-t), R Munnelly for Dillon (47), A Farrell for Cahillane (62), R O'Connor for Quigley (65), G Hanrahan for Cotter (65).
REF: C Brannigan (Down)