Dillon brace helps Dublin avoid Carlow banana skin
Dublin 2-22 Carlow 1-13
Championship ambushes rarely materialise when they're talked up in advance. So it was at Netwatch Cullen Park yesterday afternoon.
Some of the pre-match debate had touted the doomsday scenario for 1/8 favourites Dublin: slip carelessly on a Carlow banana skin and they could find themselves skidding through the Leinster SHC relegation trap-door.
Forewarned is forearmed? Perhaps. In truth, though, the chasm in class between Mattie Kenny's well-oiled machine and Colm Bonnar's top-tier newcomers was evident from the first whistle.
From the moment Eamonn Dillon buried the first of his two goals in the 13th minute, the points were only heading one way - back to Parnell Park, where Dublin will now host Galway in a fascinating round-robin finale on Saturday week.
Whereas the Dubs still harbour genuine hope of a top-three Leinster finish, their vanquished rivals could be making a rapid-fire return to the Joe McDonagh Cup. They must look to topple Wexford on enemy turf this Saturday evening and then hope other results go their way. On yesterday's evidence, unlikely.
The hosts started with the benefits of a gusting diagonal breeze that made life difficult for both sides, at times - but they made scant use of it, trailing by 2-10 to 0-8 at the break.
Once Dublin opened their second- half account with a hat-trick of points from their leading attacking triumvirate of Paul Ryan (free), Dillon and Conal Keaney, it was game, set and 12-point mismatch.
By then, the visitors had already been reduced to 14 men, Shane Barrett walking for a high foul that floored Jack Kavanagh in the 35th minute.
It was one of the few discordant notes for Dublin on a day when their defence kept Carlow danger men Martin Kavanagh and Chris Nolan on a tight leash for the most part while, at the other end, Dillon (2-2), Ryan (0-9, four from play) and Keaney (0-4) shared 2-15 between them.
Based on Kenny's post-match comments, Dublin will definitely contest Barrett's red if the video evidence offers them any window of appeal.
"We're definitely going to have a look at it, a close look at it. It's too early to say yet," the Dublin boss said.
"My understanding of the rule is that it (a red card) is striking with intent. I think a guy broke through and Shane's reaction was put up his hand and his hurl - there was no striking action.
"I think it was the hurl that caught him. But, like, there were five or six other incidents like that in the course of the game where guys would break a tackle and either the player ducks or their hand and hurl comes up. Unless there's a deliberate striking action, it shouldn't be a red card."
Disciplinary caveats aside, Dublin had reason to be satisfied with a routine job well done.
The frugal mood of their defence was encapsulated by the excellence of Eoghan O'Donnell and Paddy Smyth in the full-back line.
Up front, Cian Boland set the early agenda, skipping through an early tackle for Dublin's second point and arrowing two sweet diagonal assists for Ronan Hayes and Ryan.
The latter had 0-3 from play by the 20th minute, at which point Dublin led by six. It would have been even more if a Ryan piledriver had found the net instead of the crossbar.
When Keaney and Ryan combined to release the rampaging Dillon for his second goal, in the 29th minute, the margin was out to eight and Dublin almost out the gap.
Once Dublin stretched their lead to double-digits on the resumption, the contest became cloaked in inevitability and the quality dropped.
Carlow almost took advantage, Kavanagh for once skipping in behind O'Donnell only to crash an angled shot against the upright.
They were 14 adrift when James Doyle pounced for their only goal in the 50th minute, capitalising as two Dublin defenders ended up on the turf, and a follow-up Nolan brace trimmed the deficit to nine.
Afterwards, Colm Bonnar lamented Carlow's first half shooting with the elements, saying: "We created 18 scoring chances and took eight, and that put us under serious pressure."
But the Tipp native is not giving up on their Leinster adventure just yet.
"We knew it was going to be a huge learning experience," Bonnar remarked.
"But I think they've taken to it and, as disappointed as they are, we are going down to Wexford Park and we are still looking for that elusive win. We know there has been a gap between the teams that we've played - but we're trying to close it."
SCORERS - Dublin: P Ryan 0-9 (5f), E Dillon 2-2, C Keaney 0-4, R Hayes, F Whitely 0-2 each, C Boland, T Connolly, E O'Donnell 0-1 each. Carlow: M Kavanagh (2f), C Nolan (2f) 0-4 each, J Doyle 1-0, S Whelan 0-2, E Byrne, JM Nolan, J Kavanagh 0-1 each.
DUBLIN - A Nolan 6; P Smyth 8, E O'Donnell 8, C Hendricken 6; C Crummey 7, S Moran 7, S Barrett 5; T Connolly 5, S Treacy 6; C Boland 7, D Sutcliffe 6, E Dillon 9; C Keaney 8, R Hayes 6, P Ryan 8. Subs: D O'Connell 6 for Connolly (33), J Malone 6 for Boland (49), J Madden 6 for Hendricken (49), J Hetherton 5 for Keaney (54), F Whitely 7 for Ryan (60).
CARLOW - B Treacy 6; A Corcoran 5, P Doyle 5, M Doyle 5; K McDonald 6, D English 6, R Coady 6; J Kavanagh 6, S Whelan 7; JM Nolan 6, E Byrne 6, S Murphy 5; J Doyle 6, C Nolan 6, M Kavanagh 6. Subs: E Nolan 5 for R Coady (inj 24), G Coady 5 for Corcoran (35), R Smithers 5 for Murphy (44), T Joyce 5 for Kavanagh (51), D Murphy for J Doyle (65).
REF - J Keenan (Wicklow)