Laois impress but Dublin eventually find their groove

Reigning champions and Mayo clear their respective first hurdles in contrasting style

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly celebrates scoring his side’s opening goal against Laois at Croke Park. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly celebrates scoring his side’s opening goal against Laois at Croke Park. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 01:00

In the end, Dublin did as Dublin do. A Leinster quarter-final that was shimmering with promise at half-time ended the way most Leinster games involving Dublin tend to. Petering out, culchies heading for the cars, the Hill olé-oléing as battalions of Dublin subs pad out the scoreline.

By close of business, they had a 2-21 to 0-16 win to post on the board for starters.

Obviously, it’s come to something when the rest of the country might believe they can pan an 11-point victory over a decent side for nuggets of encouragement. And yet the tantalising thing about Jim Gavin’s Dublin is that they can often give a sucker just enough of an even break to make folk think that there might be a game afoot. Laois led at half-time here and were within a kick of a ball going into the final quarter. This wasn’t a turkey shoot. Not until the end, at any rate.

“That was real competitive fare out there,” said Gavin afterwards. “I have massive respect for Laois from playing myself and seeing them at underage with the under-21 teams I was involved with. They have all been really competitive games. So Dublin against Laois, Dublin are just happy to win. That’s our first game of the championship of 2014 and to come away having beaten Laois, that’s the most satisfying thing.”

Tomato cans

A strong and mobile Laois side came to Croke Park with more than just filling the fixture in mind. Some sides will face Dublin with all the gumption of the tomato cans who used to stagger weak-kneed across the ring to offer up their chin to Mike Tyson. Laois had more about them than that.

They upset Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs, John O’Loughlin quelled Michael Darragh Macauley in midfield. Donie Kingston and the excellent Ross Munnelly were busy in attack. They went in at the break 0-10 to 0-8 ahead.

You wouldn’t exactly have said that they were full value for it, given that Dublin had squandered six highly presentable goal chances and made a hero out of debutant Laois goalkeeper Graham Brody. And yet, the black and white of it was there for all to see. Laois, the 12/1 outsiders, were leading against a Dublin side that had already lost Bernard Brogan to what Gavin later described as hamstring cramp.

But we’ve been here before with Dublin and doubtless will be again. Their ability to solve problems during games is unrivalled. Brogan’s replacement Kevin McManamon kicked the first two points of this second half to draw them level, Diarmuid Connolly (inset) and Macauley eventually beat Brody to raise the green flags that sucked the life out of Tomás Ó Flatharta’s battling side.

After Macauley’s goal in the 54th minute, it was Shangri-La time. Cormac Costello came on and kicked three points from play, Dean Rock chipped in with the same from frees. In all, the Dublin bench added nine points. In all, Dublin had 14 different scorers. Even when they stutter, they make themselves understood in the end.

They did so yesterday with far more fluidity than the team they beat in the All-Ireland final. Mayo got out of Hyde Park by the hair on their chinny-chin-chins and no more. They trailed by a goal with 10 minutes to go and needed to score four of the last five points to avoid what would have been their first defeat in Connacht since 2010.

Having been dropped for the first time in eight years, Andy Moran came off the bench to inspire the turnaround.

He kicked two of those points and brought a sense of urgency that had been sorely lacking in a curiously jaded-looking Mayo team. Their delight at escaping with the win will be tempered by the knowledge of the improvement required for this summer to compare to those that have gone before.

nThe draws for Rounds 1A and 1B of the football qualifiers will take place on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland show at 8.35 this morning. The teams in the Round 1A draw are Wicklow, Fermanagh, Limerick, London, Offaly, Derry, Laois and Longford. The teams in the Round 1B draw are Westmeath, Down, Leitrim, Louth, Cavan, Clare or Waterford, Carlow or Meath and Monaghan or Tyrone.

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