Dublin shake off the cobwebs
GAELIC GAMES Dublin 3-13 Carlow 1-12:If Jim Gavin wasn’t entirely sure what being Dublin senior football manager actually means he does now; this simple, straightforward first round victory in the O’Byrne Cup, on the first Sunday of the year, followed by a near court-martial style string of questions that in the end tested all our patience.
Gavin emerged from the Dublin dressingroom, eventually, and we promptly surrounded him, like a dozen hungry wolves, armed with flashing iPhones, the now preferred voice recording device.
Happy enough, Jim? Room to improve? Must be hard to motivate players for one of the “minnows?”
“Well, first of all I wouldn’t consider Carlow a minnow,” said Gavin, with an uneasy smile. “I thought they played some very good football and they had a head-start on us, in terms of preparation. That showed, they played some good flowing football.
“How do I get guys up? It’s about performances and standards I set for each individual, so it’s up to them to achieve them.”
That, for the most part, they certainly did, Dublin were in command for most of the game, and at times playing some very nice, very direct football. Diarmuid Connolly helped himself to 1-2, as did the very busy Robbie McCarthy, with Paddy Quinn claiming their third goal, so that Dublin were always comfortable.
Michael Dara Macauley was typically industrious, before retiring early with a dead leg, while the new-look half-back line of emerging minor Eric Lowndes, former hurler Tomás Brady, and Cian O’Sullivan looked particularly solid.
“It’s a satisfying start to the campaign,” added Gavin, “a game in which we tried a lot of guys out, with a lot of guys coming back from a hard season last year, as well. There are places up for grabs, so I wouldn’t focus on any one individual. . . ”
When Carlow settled they did at least put up a stern challenge, Darragh Foley and Brian Murphy hitting some nice scores, with the big bonus for new manager Anthony Rainbow being the return of Brendan Murphy, who came on for the last 20 minutes, despite still recovering from a lacerated kidney. He kicked one superb point to remind everyone in Dr Cullen Park just how good a player he is.
“I suppose we’re trying to build a team that is going to be consistent,” said Rainbow, “and are mixing it up with young and older players, and I thought it worked quite well.
“We’re taking a lot of the positives out of the game, more so than the negatives, but we’ve a good bit of work to do over the next three to four weeks before the start of the league.”
Carlow did respond well: Dublin hit the first five points without reply, and Connolly’s goal on 22 minutes, set up by Lowndes, put them 1-7 to 0-3 in front, yet Carlow were back to within four at the break, and kept knocking away at Dublin in the second half, too, Daniel St Ledger poaching a late goal.
“One of the new players we brought in, Ray Walker, I thought he had a super game. If you look at what we scored, 1-13, it is not bad against Dublin in the first week in January,” added Rainbow. Dublin next take on DCU on Wednesday.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; D Daly, G Brennan, D Byrne; E Lowndes, T Brady, C O’Sullivan; D O’Mahony (0-1), M D Macauley; P Quinn (1-0), P Andrews (0-2), B Brogan (0-4, three frees); R McCarthy (1-2), D Connolly (1-2), K McManamon (0-1). Subs: D Bastick for Macauley (18), J McCaffrey for Byrne, S McCarthy for McManamon (both half-time), G Sweeney (0-1) for O’Mahony (55), R Hazley for Quinn (63).
CARLOW: T O’Reilly; BJ Molloy, S Mernagh, B Kavanagh; T Bolger, D Hayden, M Doyle; D Foley (0-4, frees), S Redmond; R Walker, C Murphy, E Ruth (0-2); B Murphy (0-4, two frees), A Kelly, D St Ledger (1-1). Subs: B Murphy (0-1) for Kelly (50), K Nolan for Doyle (58), K Byrne for Molloy (64), C Moran for C Murphy, P Reid for Walker (both 67).
Referee: F Barry (Kildare).