All-Ireland SFC Group 3 Round 2: Kildare 0-13 Dublin 0-22
After all fuss concerning the (appropriately) Mr Hyde performance against Roscommon the previous week, Dublin were back in Dr Jekyll mood in UPMC Nowlan Park on Saturday.
The notional home team Kildare – whose ground in Newbridge is undergoing renovation – had not alone rattled Dublin in Leinster but reportedly provided Roscommon and others with the template. Ultimately, though, they reverted to the overall form of a disappointing year by dropping down the gears.
Having been feistily competitive and driven by Kevin O’Callaghan at centrefield in the first quarter, which clicked along score-for-score, they allowed the Leinster champions get away before half-time.
A five-point deficit, 0-8 to 0-13, is not negligible and although Ben McCormack reprised his fast start to the match on the resumption with the first two scores and they rattled the Cluxton kick-out with three successive turnovers, Dublin reeled them back and by the start of the final quarter the margin was unchanged, 0-17 to 0-12.
That 12th point, a 45 converted by Neil Flynn, Kildare’s best forward, would be their last score until a meaningless coda at the end when Kevin Feely kicked a mark with the whistle already between referee Seán Hurson’s lips.
Dublin’s movement, alertness and accuracy at this stage can hardly be taken out of the context of such a disappointing challenge but manager Dessie Farrell was pleased that at least his team had maintained their pattern of alternating performance by improving on the listless display the previous week.
The fortnight’s break comes at an opportune time. Farrell knows that the championship will not end well if Dublin continue to turn up in body only every second match. As he said afterwards, “ ... ultimately there’s tougher games coming down the track and we have to be ready for those and that’s the challenge for us now”.
Brian Howard – in terrific form dropping back to counter Kildare’s aerial ambitions after half-time – also acknowledged, on GAAGO, that they have to find greater consistency.
Furthermore, it will be a useful recuperation period. Coming into the weekend, Jack McCaffrey and David Byrne were already injury absentees but Ciarán Kilkenny and Cormac Costello were withdrawn before the start and during the match both John Small and Con O’Callaghan were replaced with leg injuries.
Asked about the latter two afterwards, Farrell referenced the heat.
“There were a couple of bodies going down with cramp today. The conditions were tough, very, very warm out there. We’ll get a full assessment done and see what the story is then.”
For what it was, Dublin’s display was a vast improvement on the previous week. As the manager said, there was greater tempo to their play and they counterattacked with purpose when Kildare were pushing forward, mined turnovers for points and scored 0-19 from play.
O’Callaghan and Colm Basquel led the charge, the latter having his best day in a Dublin jersey with five from play. O’Callaghan had four by half-time but appeared to take a knock in the third quarter and was replaced. He is such an important influence on the side, as demonstrated in his absence last summer, that fingers will be crossed into knots.
When seeing out the game in the end, Dublin had fine performances from a number of players, but there was a real lack of intensity in the Kildare challenge given how effective their packed defence proved in the Leinster semi-final.
Glenn Ryan was bemused as there had been no change of plan – no decision to go for it on a sunny afternoon and fast track.
“Dublin played well. There is no doubt about that but we would have felt we had a system in place that was able to deal with that. That you are not allowing them to play at a level that they like to. There was no change of game plan but unfortunately, we didn’t bring that to the pitch.”
Farrell pointed out that the rapid-fire sequence of matches is new for teams and makes demands in terms of fitness and injury management,
“The new competition format – everybody is trying to get their head around that. It’s not straight knock-out. That perhaps takes some of the edge off. It shouldn’t be an excuse really but it’s something we’ve discussed and are keen to address in terms of getting that quality and consistency in our performance week-in, week-out.
“Games at this time of year are definitely to be welcomed. The six-day turnaround is probably tough. That’s something that can be looked at for the competition next year by the authorities but we’re not complaining, we got the business done today and we’re happy to move on.”
Kildare face Roscommon in the final round whereas Dublin take on Sligo.
DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Seán McMahon, Michael Fitzsimons, Daire Newcombe; Seán Bugler (0-3), John Small, Lee Gannon; Brian Fenton (0-1), James McCarthy; Niall Scully (0-1), Con O’Callaghan (0-4), Brian Howard; Dean Rock (0-4, three frees), Colm Basquel (0-5), Killian O’Gara (0-1).
Subs: Paul Mannion (0-2) for O’Gara (h-t, Lorcan O’Dell for Rock (48 mins), Tom Lahiff (0-1) for O’Callaghan, Cian Murphy for Small (both 59), Greg McEneaney for McMahon (71 mins).
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Eoin Doyle, Mick O’Grady, Shea Ryan; David Hyland, Kevin Flynn, Jack Sargent; Kevin O’Callaghan (0-1), Aaron Masterson (0-1); Paddy McDermott, Ben McCormack (0-3), Alex Beirne; Paddy Woodgate (0-1, free), Darragh Kirwan (0-1), Neil Flynn (0-5, two frees, one 45).
Subs: Tony Archbold for Sargent, Ryan Houlihan for Doyle (both h-t), Daniel Flynn for Woodgate (43 mins), Kevin Feely (0-1, mark) for Masterson (48), Paul Cribbin for McCormack (54).
Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone).