All too easy for Dublin as Monaghan roll over

Jim Gavin’s side never left second gear as they booked their place in the semi-finals

Monaghan’s Kieran Duffy and Drew Wylie attaempt to tackle  Jack McCaffrey of Dublin during the  All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at  Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Monaghan’s Kieran Duffy and Drew Wylie attaempt to tackle Jack McCaffrey of Dublin during the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Dublin 1-19 Monaghan 0-12

Champions Dublin rumbled uneventfully through Monaghan in Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-finals at Croke Park. The challengers were witnesses to their own downfall by failing to make any sort of impact up front and create any sort of pressure on the scoreboard.

As a consequence the match as a contest slipped away over the horizon and it was clear from an early stage that Monaghan hadn’t the wherewithal to chase it.

Jim Gavin again had the satisfactory experience of winning with a bit to spare and yet with plenty to work on before the semi-final against Tyrone at the end of the month.

Dean Rock was impeccable from placed balls – eight from eight – and also chipped in the team’s only goal. At the back the defence kept a clean sheet and kept concentration until the end. The bench also got a run with two significant returns to action in the persons of Michael Darragh Macauley and Paul Flynn. Eoghan O’Gara also looked sharp at full forward, winning a series of high balls – and laying them off well – that didn’t yield what they should have.

That slackness in the conversion of chances, particularly when the tension went out of the match will have made Gavin unhappy with the squandermania that resulted in 12 wides.

Where it leaves the quest for three in a row is hard to quantify. Monaghan, long regarded as worthy sparring partners or the great and the good, once again failed to find anything resembling a knockout punch even though they are a Division One team with a competitive pedigree.

Dublin’s Brian Fenton, Mick Fitzsimons and Cian O’Sullivan snuff out an attack from Conor McManus. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Dublin’s Brian Fenton, Mick Fitzsimons and Cian O’Sullivan snuff out an attack from Conor McManus. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

A capacity crowd turned out for the last double bill of the All-Ireland quarter-finals, a round that has helped to define the championship for 17 years, before the round-robin series is introduced in 2018.

Stephen Cluxton got a rousing reaction from the Hill when stadium announcer Gerry Grogan drew attention to the Dublin captain’s setting a new record for championship appearances.

Initially it looked like being amongst the least eventful of his 89 matches to date but in the second half he was summoned to arms and made a fine save from Jack McCarron, as Monaghan threatened a second half revival. Cluxton was further called to intervene to keep out an Owen Duffy effort but the first save was a hammer blow to any hopes of reviving the match as, within seven seconds, Dublin had countered and Paddy Andrews fired over a point to make it 1-14 to 0-6.

In the first half the Dublin goal had never been threatened and Monaghan largely abandoned the Dublin kick-outs in order to funnel back into defence.

It became a matter of bemusement to see the Ulster side shipping more and more scores at one end and continuing to leave a heavily outnumbered, two-pronged attack loitering hopefully in front of Cluxton’s square.

McCarron, back in the team after his probationary release for the previous week’s qualifier, was given the opportunity to rediscover the league form that suggested he could take some of the strain Conor McManus has monopolised in the Monaghan attack.

But despite winning some good possession, his shooting was awry and he returned no score and three wides.

Paul Mannion gave Ryan Wylie the slip within 28 seconds for the opening point before Dublin settled into bouts of possession to set up their relentless sequences of recycling and patiently waiting for an opportunity to arise. Monaghan co-operated by giving away frees, which given Rock’s form was as good as kicking it over their own bar.

In the 19th minute Jack McCaffrey, whose goal settled the league match in Clones last April and who switched between attack and defence, accelerated into space and kicked the sixth point for a 0-6 to 0-1 lead.

Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton became the GAA’s record appearance maker. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton became the GAA’s record appearance maker. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Within a minute Con O’Callaghan, busy without shooting out the lights as he had done in the Leinster final, was placed behind the defence by Brian Fenton but his shot was blocked by Rory Beggan and Paddy Andrews miscued the follow-up.

For most people in the packed stadium, the contest was already past tense. Dublin remained vigilant in defence and James McCarthy and Johnny Cooper, back from injury, put in good blocks before half-time when Dublin led by 0-11 to 0-3.

On the resumption Monaghan tried hard to retrieve things. Conor McCarthy shot two impressive points and raised questions as to why he hadn’t started. But, after the second, Dublin capped any gushing from the well when Andrews caught Fenton’s free and slipped through to tee up Rock with a straightforward slap to the net.

The lead stretched to 13 on a couple of occasions but Dublin lost urgency and Monaghan, to their credit, plugged away to knock three off that deficit but the central issue had been decided ages previously.

The semi-final against Tyrone promises a great deal. Neither team has been stretched in their journey to this point and something will have to give: the Ulster champions’ rocketing reputation or Dublin’s ambition to make history. Three weeks of anticipation await.

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; P McMahon, C O’Sullivan, M Fitzsimons; J Cooper, J Small (0-1), E Lowndes; B Fenton, J McCarthy (0-1); C Kilkenny, C O’Callaghan (0-1), J McCaffrey (0-1); P Mannion (0-3), P Andrews (0-3), D Rock (1-7, 0-6f, 0-1 ‘45).

Subs: B Brogan for Lowndes (41), D Daly for Small (50), P Flynn (0-1) for McCarthy (50), E O’Gara (0-1) for Andrews (54), MD Macauley for Kilkenny (57), D Byrne for Cooper (60).

MONAGHAN: R Beggan. (0-1, free); D Wylie, C Walshe(0-1), R Wylie; K Duffy, F Kelly, K O’Connell (0-1); K Hughes, D Hughes (0-1); D Ward, S Carey, S Carey; R McAnespie (0-1), C McManus (0-4, 0-3 frees)J McCarron.

Subs: C McCarthy (0-3) for Doogan (35), O Duffy for Ward (h-t), V Corey for R Wylie (44), D Mone for O’Connell (44), D Malone for Carey (56), N McAdam for D Hughes (63).

Referee: C Lane (Cork).