'No gloss' for Rebels as Dubs learn from pain of semi-final collapse
Dublin 4-21 Cork 2-17
Dublin manager Ger Cunningham prefers to put the foot down on the accelerator and drive forward to the next destination, but he did take a brief glance in the rearview mirror to remind his players of a speed bump they hit in last year's journey through the hurling landscape.
The date was April 19, 2015, the occasion the Allianz League semi-final and the opposition was Cork. The Dubs led by ten points after 40 minutes only to find themselves running out of fuel and eventually losing by a point.
A painful lesson, which explains why Cunningham would not countenance complacency despite a 3-12 to 0-9 half-time lead at Croke Park on Saturday night.
"It gave us something to talk about at half-time, the fact that we had been there before," he said. "We just didn't want to repeat the same situation, so it made it easy to reference it.
"The fact that we had been there was some help to us."
This time there were no faulty emissions from the Blues. They continued to choke the life out of the Rebels, scoring 1-9 in the second period.
Their hard-pressed and embarrassed opposition managed to score 2-8 in that half, but they were two injury-time goals by Seamus Harnedy and offered no consolation in the opinion of Cork selector Pat Ryan.
"No, there's no gloss on it at all. The one thing we could take out of it was that a couple of fellas who came on played very well and showed the right attitude and the right application to playing with Cork," said Ryan.
" We just had two or three fellas who showed that application over the whole 70 minutes.
"There's no sugar coating it. Any fella that wouldn't have a clue about hurling would know that that wasn't a good enough performance," said Ryan.
'Performance' was the mantra for Dublin in the build-up. After the win over Galway which followed a defeat to Tipperary, Cunningham stressed the need for consistency and they have now delivered in successive matches.
Tough challenges lie ahead for the Dubs in the ultra-competitive Division 1A, with league champions Waterford up next followed by All-Ireland champions Kilkenny, both matches away from home.
At the very least, Dublin have given themselves a good platform to build on.
The hunger to hunt down opponents, the good defensive work and the narrow-eyed focus on going for goal when the opportunities opened up were the key ingredients of the victory.
Eleven players got on the scoresheet, with man of the match Eamonn Dillon (2-3) and David Treacy (1-7) leading the way.
Cork looked busy and eager early in the match, and by the sixth minute had four points on the board to Dublin's two. Luke O'Farrell and Conor Lehane, with two points each suggested the visitors were in the mood to stage a rebound display after losing their first two league games.
Dillon and Treacy struck points in reply, and once Treacy fired over his team's third point from a 12th minute free, all changed.
Cork stayed stuck on 0-4 for a torrid 20-minute spell from the sixth minute, while the Dubs indulged themselves in an impressive scoring spree.
The pick of their run of ten points from the 12th minute to half-time was Liam Rushe's magnificent strike from almost 80 metres.
But it was the goals that really hurt the Rebels.
Dillon powerfully angled his way past his marker Stephen McDonnell to hit home the first goal in the 20th minute.
Treacy got number two a mere three minutes later, and Sean McGrath joined his colleagues in raising a third green flag for the Dubs in the 25th minute.
Cork did not help their cause by shooting five wides and dropping four shots short in the third quarter, but Dublin stayed focused.
Dillon delivered goal number four in the 48th minute, making the score 4-14 to 0-11.
"They went for the jugular. They went for the goals. And that gave us the breathing space that we had all the way through," said Cunningham.
The game was all but over when Cork struck for goal twice via Harnedy, reducing the margin to 'only' ten points, but the pain remains.
Scorers - Dublin: E Dillon 2-3; D Treacy 1-7 (5fs); S McGrath 1-0; S Barrett, M Schutte, N McMorrow 0-2 each; L Rushe, D Plunkett, D O'Callaghan, D Plunkett, J McCaffrey 0-1 each. Cork: P Horgan 0-7 (6fs,1 '65'); S Harnedy 2-0; C Lehane 0-4; P Haughney (1f), L O'Farrell 0-2 each; B Lawton, B Cooper 0-1 each.
Dublin - C Dooley 7; E O'Donnell 7, C O'Callaghan 7, O Gough 7; S Barrett 7, L Rushe 7, J McCaffrey 7; D O'Connell 7, D Plunkett 7; S McGrath 7, N McMorrow 7, E Dillon 9; D O'Callaghan 7, D Treacy 8, M Schutte 7. Subs: C Cronin 7 for S McGrath (h-t); J Boland 7 for J McCaffrey (58); S Treacy for D O'Callaghan (64); F McGibb for D Treacy (64) ; J Madden for C O'Callaghan (68).
Cork - A Nash 5; K Burke 5, C Joyce 5, S McDonnell 5; D Cahalane 6, M Ellis 5, C Murphy 5; D Kearney 5, B Lawton 6; B Cooper 5, S Harnedy 6, P Cronin 5; C Lehane 6, L O'Farrell 5 , P Horgan 6. Subs: L McLoughlin 5 for C Murphy (27); P Haughney 6 for D Kearney (32); S Murphy 5 for S McDonnell (h.t); P O'Sullivan 5 for P Cronin (44); W Leahy for P Horgan (62)
Ref - A Kelly (Galway)