Cobweb stuff cheers Carr


Tom Carr, the Dublin manager, referred to it afterwards as "cobweb stuff" and, indeed, the reality is that yesterday's exhibition fare on a soggy pitch was about as far removed from the cut-and-thrust of championship football as it's possible to get.

As a starting point, however, for new resolutions and old theories, it was, as Carr admitted, "a worthwhile exercise" and a fruitful way to exorcise bodies of such evil seasonal excesses as pudding, mulled wine and turkey leftovers. Indeed, some of the football played at Pairc Naomh Uinsionn in Marino yesterday would, if it were possible, have been packaged and stored away for a more productive purpose on a more demanding stage; other moments, and some of the shooting, are best forgotten.

Dublin eventually had three-points to spare over the Evening Herald Blue Stars selection and regained a trophy they relinquished last year. The margin should have been even greater, but a couple of defensive lapses late in the game allowed the composite side to get within sniffing distance at a time when they should have been well and truly dispatched.

The Blue Stars contained a number of regular Dublin players, but that gave Carr and his fellow selectors an opportunity to delve into their large squad of hungry players and, certainly, a number of the young players knocking on the door for recognition, particularly Brendan O'Brien and Enda Crennan, responded positively and didn't do their causes any harm.

However, it was an old name with still young legs who really emphasised the competition for places in the Dublin attack. Jason Sherlock scored a goal and a point, was provider on more than one occasion and generally tried to get into the thick of the action as he started the new year determined to win back a place in the team.

His industry was arguably his most impressive attribute, although the goal, which arrived in the ninth minute, was the catalyst for Dublin to ignite after an unsteady start.

The Blue Stars had scored the opening three points of the game - with Peter Ward in fine form, the intuitive Senan Connell setting him up on both occasions - before Jim Gavin kick-started Dublin with a point and, mere seconds later, Ciaran Whelan's long ball was gathered by Sherlock and, although falling, he managed to direct it past goalkeeper David Byrne.

In truth, the Blue Stars created enough chances to take more than their slender one-point lead into the half-time break. Declan Conlon had tripped Connell in the 19th minute but Mick O'Keeffe's penalty kick went wide off the upright and Dessie Farrell had a glaring wide moments later. However, the Blue Stars had a 0-8 to 1-4 lead at the break, only for it to be blown away on the resumption by some splendid Dublin play.

Dublin inflicted the real damage in the first 20 minutes of the second half, during which they scored 1-6 to their opponents' miserly solitary point. During this half, both managements used the revolving door in introducing substitutes, with players appearing on the pitch, disappearing and reappearing with all the aplomb of a magician. The system suited Dublin's greater strength in depth.

Much of Dublin's good work invariably came through Gavin, a player who has taken on much responsibility. So, it was fitting that Gavin should provide the clinical pass to O'Brien for Dublin's second goal and, by the 50th minute, they had romped through the sticky surface to establish a 2-10 to 0-9 lead.

The Blue Stars were revived somewhat in the 51st minute when Maurice Leahy escaped from his midfield duties to score a goal from close range, and then Farrell crashed home another goal in the 55th minute to finally raise the temperature on a winter's day. However, Dublin refused to capitulate and simply slipped back into a higher gear to ensure victory and start the year as they aim to continue.

"It was a good workout, especially for this time of year," said Carr. "Things are going pretty well for us and it is a matter of keeping it going. I don't envisage too many changes in the squad. We've been working with a large group and we'll keep it like that, and we also plan to play in the O'Byrne Cup because it is hard to beat playing matches."

DUBLIN: K Gorman; D Aston, M Breathnach, C Moran; D Conlon, P Curran, K Galvin (0-1); D Homan, C Whelan; J Gavin (0-3, one free), D Darcy (0-4, two frees), E Crennan (0-3); B O'Brien (1-2, one free), E Sheehy, J Sherlock (1-1). Subs used: P Croft, S Ryan, L Walsh, D Herlihy, K Lawlor, I Clarke.

BLUE STARS: D Byrne; M Casey, P Giles, P Christie; J O'Callaghan, K Murray, T Lynch (0- 1); M Leahy (1-1), P Bealin (0-1); P Ward (0- 2), D Farrell (1-0), S Connell; M O'Keeffe (0-3, one free), R Cosgrove, B Irwin (0-3, two frees). Subs used: C Deegan, C Voyles, C Kelly, I Foley.

Referee: P Kiernan (St Olaf's).