Rock the foundation for Blues' cruise
Dublin 1-19 Monaghan 0-12
A spectacularly awful double-bill of football, before a full house in Croke Park last night, ended with Dublin moving closer to a third All-Ireland title in succession with the minimum of fuss. They were rarely under pressure and the match never looked remotely in danger of being mistaken for a contest. Dublin have cantered into the semi-finals, but the next day, one presumes, will be different.
"We are just happy to be in the semi-final," Dublin manager Jim Gavin said. "Going into the game we knew that Monaghan had six championship games under their belt and were battle hardened. I think the result is a reflection of the respect we gave to Monaghan. We prepared really well for this game and I thought the players did well in the first half against 13 men behind the ball. We were very controlled and composed, and were deserved leaders at half-time."
In three weeks Dublin face Ulster champions Tyrone, who won the opening match against Armagh with even greater ease. Monaghan were heavily beaten in the All-Ireland quarter-finals by Dublin in 2014.
The margin of defeat here was seven points less but it could have been far wider. Con O'Callaghan and Bernard Brogan both had goal chances saved by Rory Beggan and the Dubs looked to have another few gears in them if necessary. Dublin were also unusually shabby in their finishing, missing a series of good scoring chances, mainly in the first half, and dropping others short.
Which makes it all the more depressing for those who had hoped for some degree of suspense or surprise. Dublin won without having to be even that good. But their work-rate never relented and their defending, all over the field, was tireless in its tenacity. They also showed a great deal more discipline than Monaghan did. Dean Rock finished the match with eight points from placed balls, seven of those from frees. His goal in the 40th minute effectively buried Monaghan's prospects of salvaging something from the match, moving Dublin 1-13 to 0-5 in the clear.
Dublin were stronger around the middle of the field and Brian Fenton's vision and textbook delivery created the game's only goal. Paddy Andrews out-fielded Ciaran Walshe and drew the cover, before slipping a pass to Rock, who flicked the ball to the net without catching. At half-time the match seemed dead anyway. Dublin were 0-11 to 0-3 in front and looked like they were not at full pelt. Monaghan played with Jack McCarron and Ciaran McManus up front but they were unable to make any impact and the game plan followed the template of the previous win over Down, with the Farney men sitting deep and inviting Dublin on to them.
It will also be a bone of contention as to why Conor McCarthy, their liveliest scoring threat when introduced against Down, did not start. The argument will be made, no doubt, that he has a role as an impact sub but by the time McCarthy was sprung in first-half injury-time Monaghan trailed by eight points. In his first two possessions he scored two early second-half points. Soon he had a third. But he could not turn a game like this around on his own. In the limited time offered, he finished Monaghan's top scorer from play.
McCarron, marked by Philly McMahon, failed to register, having stood out when the sides met in the league in early April, when Monaghan led by six points into the second half before being overtaken. McManus was also well contained and scored only a point from play. In the middle of the field Kieran and Darren Hughes couldn't wield enough influence, and James McCarthy was outstanding before being taken off. Dublin could afford to run through their bench, the match safe long before the finish. They will have had harder and more exacting in-house matches.
Paul Mannion and Andrews each scored three points from play and Dublin will have Diarmuid Connolly available again for selection for the Tyrone match. Brogan came on in the second half but failed to match his impact in the Leinster final, when he scored five points from play as a substitute. Stephen Cluxton made one excellent stop from McCarron in the second half and his handling was always reliable on his record-breaking 89th championship appearance.
Monaghan went 25 minutes without a score in the first half. McManus had their first point in the fourth minute and they didn't raise a flag again until their captain, Walshe, kicked a good score just short of the half-hour mark. The delivery to the inside forwards was poor and Dublin's pressure, and extra numbers with Cian O'Sullivan sweeping, reduced the risk. Their covering was memorably reflected in one outstanding block from the excellent McCarthy.
Monaghan, Ulster champions in 2013 and '15, and contesting their fourth quarter-final in five years, have been hinting at some kind of breakthrough for some time. To lose to Dublin is no disgrace; to lose so meekly will grate. Dublin turn their attentions to Tyrone, who will offer a harder test in every line of the field. But Dublin will reasonably feel they haven't delivered anything like their best yet. The truth is they haven't had to.
Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 1-8 (0-7 fs, 0-1 45); P Andrews, P Mannion 0-3 each, C O'Callaghan, J McCaffrey, J McCarthy, E O'Gara, P Flynn 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 0-4 (0-3 fs), C McCarthy 0-3; C Walshe, K Mannion, R Beggan (f), D Hughes, R McAnespie 0-1.
Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, M Fitzsimons, P McMahon; J Small, C O'Sullivan, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, J McCarthy; C Kilkenny, C O'Callaghan, E Lowndes; P Mannion, P Andrews, D Rock. Subs: B Brogan for Lowndes (41 mins); D Daly & P Flynn for Small & McCarthy (51); E O'Gara for Andrews (54); MD Macauley for Kilkenny (58); D Byrne for Cooper (61).
Monaghan: R Beggan; F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; K O'Connell, C Walshe, K Duffy; K Hughes, D Hughes; R McAnespie, S Carey, D Ward; J McCarron, C McManus, G Doogan. Subs: C McCarthy for Doogan (36 mins); O Duffy for Ward (half time); D Mone for O'Connell & V Corey for R Wylie (both 44 mins); D Malone for Carey (56); N McAdam for D Hughes (62).
Referee: C Lane (Cork)
Sunday Indo Sport