Dublin have the hunger again
Why is it that some teams have to lose their manager to find their form? The old zeal and zest returned to the limbs of Dublin's footballers yesterday at Parnell Park in what was a performance full of purpose and panache. Their league campaign finally stuttered forward last week with a flawed win over Wexford. This was much more like it. Cavan were hurt by defections, but if some faces were missing, others were blushing by the close of play.
Both sides began by withdrawing one player from the full forward line, leaving just two up front. Perhaps Cavan chose this option in the hope of clogging up the midfield. It didn't work. Dublin's big men - Brian Stynes, Paul Bealin, Ciaran Whelan and Dermot Harrington - made light work of the smaller Cavan players.
Dermot McCabe's direct switch with Ronan Carolan to full forward did disturb Keith Barr. The Gowna man's ability to hit points from long range was in evidence in the first half as Carolan's intelligent distribution opened up the home defence. Little else went to plan for stand-in coach Damian O'Reilly.
Dublin should have been down to 14 men as early as the second minute when Ian Robertson became embroiled in an off-the-ball scuffle with Fintan Cahill. The Cavan man was wrestled to the ground and, while down, appeared to be kicked. The referee had no option but to send Robertson off. Or, so the crowd thought. A booking was administered and Robertson escaped. That said, the visitors wouldn't have won this game with three extra players, never mind one.
The early probing was cautious and Dublin's over-elaborate inter-passing gave the Cavan backs the time to funnel back in numbers when possession was lost. Whelan, Stynes and Declan Darcy traded points with Ronan Carolan - on the scoreboard - before Enda Sheehy gave his side a real foothold on the greasy pitch with a punched goal that was set up by Darcy's burst into the danger zone from the right wing. Three admirable points by the gangling McCabe from peripheral angles was all the visitors could offer. Jim Gavin, Eamonn Heery, Whelan and Stynes turned the screw with points that were born of pinpoint passing and selfless running off the ball to stretch Dublin's lead to 1-7 to 0-5 by the break.
The last tension-packed month has been an unholy hell for those concerned with Dublin football and all those traits that might have blighted their first three displays seemed a distant memory, Darcy, Gavin, Martin Barnes and Bealin rained in points on the Cavan goal, before substitute Pat Gilroy exchanged passes with Bealin and blasted past Paul O'Dowd.
Dublin: D Byrne; I Robertson, K Barr, P Christie; P Curran, D Harrington, E Heery (0-1); B Stynes (0-2), P Bealin (0-1); D Homan, C Whelan (0-2), E Sheehy (1-0); M Barnes (0-1), D Darcy (0-3, three frees) J Gavin (0-4, two frees). Subs: P Ward for Homan (34 mins), P Gilroy (1- 0) for Stynes (46 mins), J Magee for Robertson (51 mins).
Cavan: P O'Dowd; P Murphy, C Brady, G Sheridan; P Reilly, B Morris, P Shiels; C Clarke, D McCabe (0-4, one free); M Fegan, P Brady, R Cunningham; A Forde (0-2), R Carolan (0-2, two frees), F Cahill. Subs: B Donohoe for Reilly (16 mins), D Brady for Shiels (half-time), M Graham for Clarke (45 mins).
Referee: N Barrett (Cork).