Chastening afternoon for Kingdom as Dublin flex muscles
Galway’s visit to Wexford the pick of the four hurling quarter-finals next weekend
Dublin’s Shane Carthy celebrates after Niall Scully scored their first goal against Kerry in the Division One clash at Croke Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Maybe when they come to write the books on what Kerry did with the most promising crop of youngsters to come through for a generation, this will go down as the character-forming early chapter.
Or maybe Dublin will just keep on keeping everyone down until the sun burns itself out. One way or the other, a 2-17 to 0-11 thrashing in front of 24,026 paying guests in Croke Park was heavy punishment for a Kerry side who had made a decent show of things initially.
After Galway’s win over Monaghan earlier in the day had bought them a spot in the Division One final, Dublin all but guaranteed they’ll be the ones to meet them there on April 1st. Having led by just a point in the 25th minute, they rattled off 1-8 on the bounce over the following half hour to power away with it.
Ciarán Kilkenny’s excellence was a constant feature, Jonny Cooper, Paddy Andrews and Michael Darragh Macauley were at the vanguard too. Jim Gavin has had plenty of these days by now and he can fend us off as easily as one of his defenders if we try to get overexcited.
“It’s probably a perception of what comfortable means,” he replied when it was put to him that he hardly expected to have the game reduced to a cakewalk so long before the end.
“To me, we just have to keep driving because if you give Kerry any chink they’ll take it. They have those exceptional players so we just have to keep driving as hard as we could to close the game out.
“Coming up to half-time we tightened up on our passing which was a little bit loose in the first half. We consider ourselves a catch-and-kick football team and we practice those fundamentals in our training sessions so that was disappointing in the first half. We tightened up in the second half and we got the performance as a result.”
For Eamonn Fitzmaurice, it was a chastening afternoon. His young side had given Dublin plenty of it in the first half, both on the scoreboard and in the endless niggling that had gone on around the pitch.
David Clifford had his best half yet in a senior jersey, giving Cian O’Sullivan a roasting. But in the end, they only scored three points in the second half and Dublin could have won by plenty more if the mood had been on them.
“I’m not one bit worried about the lads,” Fitzmaurice said afterwards. “They’ve seen up close and personal now how good this Dublin team are, how well-drilled they are and how ruthless they are. That’s good learning so you can be training as much as you want and replicating that in training as much as you want, but it’s a steep learning curve.
“We knew that at the start of the league that it was going to be a steep learning curve at times and you just have to take that. Like I keep saying, we have to focus on next weekend and try and get a result at home and make sure we are in Division One again next year.”
In the hurling league, the quarter-final line-up for next weekend was decided after the final round of games. Limerick’s win over Galway in Salthill means that as well as being finally promoted to Division 1A, they will meet Clare next weekend. Defending champions Galway will travel to Wexford, Dublin will host Tipperary and there will be a coin toss to decide where Kilkenny and Offaly will face off. The relegation play-off between Waterford and Cork will be in Páirc Uí Rinn.