Faithful crush 'outfought' Dubs to underline scale of Gilroy's task
Allianz NHL Division 1B: Offaly 2-25 Dublin 1-15
As new Dublin hurling boss Pat Gilroy reflects on the painful entrails of the 13-point drubbing Offaly inflicted on his side in Croke Park on Saturday night, the Coldplay line 'nobody said it was easy' might have crossed his mind.
Granted, he picked an experimented side, featuring just four of the players who started against Tipperary in the team's last Championship outing in 2017. But he acknowledged that it was a very disappointing performance from Dublin, who played in Division 1A last season.
"We were out-fought and out-worked. Offaly fully deserved their victory. So we've got to learn from that," he said.
"It wasn't what we had intended to do."
Given that Offaly's only competitive wins last year were achieved against Kerry (League) and Westmeath (Championship) this victory - their first in a League game in Croke Park since their only outright victory in the competition in 1991 - was a welcome fillip for new boss Kevin Martin.
"It was a really good performance. I wasn't surprised. We worked hard. We were in a really good place during the week. Mentally we were strong," he said.
With only one more home game - against All-Ireland champions Galway on February 25 - Dublin face a real battle to avoid being sucked into a relegation dogfight.
"We all have to look at ourselves and come up with the answers," said Gilroy.
The Dublin defence was exposed as early as the third minute when only a brilliant reflex save from recalled goalkeeper Alan Nolan denied Oisin Kelly a goal.
Nolan rescued Dublin again eight minutes later with another instinctive save from the lively corner-forward.
With midfielder Shane Kinsella the most influential outfield player - he hit three points in the first half and won one of Offaly's four converted frees - the visitors were four points clear by the 24th minute.
Dublin did have a brief respite when Shane Barrett's incisive run split the retreating Offaly defence and his lay-off was drilled to the net by Paul Winters. Donal Burke followed up with a point free to level the game.
Offaly's response was decisive - they outscored their rivals 6-1 during the remainder of the half to lead 0-16 to 1-8 at the break.
Shane Dooley, a second-half replacement for Joe Bergin, celebrated his 100th League and Championship appearance for Offaly by driving a 38th-minute penalty past a motionless Nolan.
The goal effectively ended the game as a contest, with Gilroy bemoaning his side's lack of intensity.
"Our intensity was probably half of what we intended to bring to that game. Our movement of the ball was poor and pretty much every thing that we set out to do, we didn't," he lamented.
Thirty-five-year-old Conal Keaney made his comeback in the second half, but it was the introduction of Niall McMorrow and newcomer John Hetherton which added much-needed urgency to the Dublin attack.
However, any remote chance of a sustained comeback evaporated when Offaly substitute Liam Langton scored a 64th-minute goal with his first touch after a mix-up in the Dublin defence to seal Offaly first win in Croke Park in any competition since 2005.
"It's only January," cautioned Martin - an observation which was about the only consolation for Gilroy on a grim night for his inexperienced side.
Scorers - Offaly: S Dooley 1-5 (1-0 pen, 5fs), J Bergin 0-6 (4fs, 1 '65'), L Langton 1-0, O Kelly (1 s-l), S Kinsella, C Egan 0-3 each, D Egan, D Currams 0-2 each; D Shortt 0-1. Dublin: D Burke 0-6 (5fs), P Winters 1-1, A Moore 0-2, C Crummey, F Whitely, R Smith, N McMorrow, E Dillon, J Hetherton 0-1 each.
Offaly - C Slevin 7; T Spain 7, S Gardiner 7, B Conneely 7; P Delaney 7, P Camon 8, D Shortt 7; D King 7, S Kinsella 9; J Bergin 8, C Egan 8, D Egan 7; O Kelly 8, C Mahon 7, D Currams 7. Subs: S Dooley 8 for Bergin (ht), T Geraghty 6 for C Egan (53), L Langton 7 for Mahon (63), D O'Toole for Connelly (71), D Doughan for Delaney (73).
Dublin - A Nolan 7; P Smyth 5, B O'Carroll, 5 C Hendricken 5; S Barrett 6, C McBride 5, C Crummey 6, J McCaffrey 5; T Connolly 5; D Burke 6, F Whitely 5, R Smith 5; A Moore 6, P Winters 6, F O'Roinn-Broin 5. Subs: E Dillon 6 for O'Roinn-Broin (25), N McMorrow 6 for McCaffrey (43), C Keaney 5 for Moore (46), J Hetherton 6 for Winters (53), J Madden 5 for Hendricken (66).
Ref - P O'Dwyer (Carlow)