Dublin 4-25 Longford 0-10
It is hard to know how bad these beatings will need to get before they become indefensible. Do Dublin need to win by 30 points? Thirty-five? Forty? The distance between what Longford can be and what Dublin are capable of is barely measureable in goals and points but by whatever metric you want to reach for, the two counties don’t make sense as part of the same competition any more. Then again, since when did the GAA have to make sense?
The numbers here would make a FIFA executive blush. Dublin ran up as gaudy a score as they pleased and it was only general disinterest that stopped them piling another dozen or more on top of it. For the fourth year in a row, they skipped though their Leinster quarter-final with a double-digit victory to show for their efforts at the end.
Under Jim Gavin, Dublin's average winning margin in the Leinster Championship has been a smooth 15.5 points. Their first game out each summer has long since descended into an exercise in filling their boots - the last time any side got within a kick of a ball of them in a Leinster quarter-final was 2009 when Meath only lost by two points.
Of their starting 15 yesterday, only Stephen Cluxton has suffered the indignity of watching as a goal has been scored against them this early in the year - a Halley’s Comet-style oddity that you need to go all the way back to 2005 and a Joe Sheridan drop-kick to see. It would be the brave scientist who predicts the sighting of the next one.
Dublin won here just as easily as all and sundry knew they would. They were able to give championship debuts to David Byrne, John Small and Brian Fenton at full-back, centre-back and midfield respectively. Imagine that - the spine of their side made up of championship newbies and still they won by 27 points without a hair out of place.
In opposition, they found a Longford side that contained only one player in full-forward Brian Kavanagh who had made a championship appearance in Croke Park before. A few of Jack Sheedy's squad came out of the dressing-room in the hours before throw-in to take selfies at the side of the pitch. This was a wholly alien experience to them and they froze in the face of it.
Dublin were 1-5 to 0-0 up after eight minutes. They were 2-11 to 0-6 up after 25. They finished with 11 different scorers to Longford’s four. They outscored Longford by 2-14 to 0-8 in the first half and by 2-11 to 0-2 in the second. Longford’s last score from play came in the 22nd minute.
Sheedy set his team up with six defenders, two midfielders and six attackers and Dublin duly swallowed them whole. Whether through bravado or fidelity to tradition, he brushed off suggestions afterwards that he should have set his side up more defensively to give them a chance against such a fluid attacking outfit. As it was, all six Dublin forwards had scored by the 15th minute. So be it, reckoned Sheedy.
“No,” he replied when asked had he considered parking the bus. “No, don’t believe in it. Don’t like it. I think it’s horrible to watch. As a spectator sport, it’s called football so let’s go play football to the best of our ability. If we had done that with our lads what would they have gained out of it? Very little.
“They got to experience playing against one of the best teams in the country, suffered heavily against them, but putting 15 guys behind the ball was not going to improve how they play football. So no, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it. And they wouldn’t have wanted it either.”
Quite what good a 27-point drumming is to the Longford players remains to be seen. By going man-to-man here, they submitted before a ball was kicked. Consequently, we learned very little about Dublin’s prospects for the sterner challenges that lie ahead.
They won here without Rory O'Carroll, Cian O'Sullivan and James McCarthy, all of whom are expected back for the semi-final on June 28th against either Laois or Kildare. For what it's worth, Bernard Brogan looked extremely sharp against Longford's best defender Dermot Brady and Ciarán Kilkenny was moving with as much menace as he ever has in a Dublin jersey.
But what it all means, we’ll not find out for a month or two yet.
DUBLIN: 1 Stephen Cluxton; 2 Jonny Cooper, 3 David Byrne; 4 Philly McMahon (0-1); 5 Darren Daly, 6 John Small, 7 Jack McCaffrey; 8 Brian Fenton (0-1), 9 Denis Bastick; 10 Paul Flynn (1-3), Ciarán Kilkenny (0-3), Diarmuid Connolly (1-0); Dean Rock (1-6, two frees, two 45s), Kevin McManamon (0-2), Bernard Brogan (1-6).
Subs: 23 Mick Fitzsimons for McMahon, 18 Tomás Brady (0-1) for Connolly (both half-time); 25 Michael Darragh Macauley for Bastick (46 mins); 17 Paddy Andrews (0-1) for Flynn (52 mins); 24 Eric Lowndes (0-1) for Cooper (56 mins); 19 Alan Brogan for Bernard Brogan (61 mins).
LONGFORD: 1 Paddy Collum (0-1, 45); 2 Dermot Brady, 3 Barry O'Farrell, 4 Cian Farrelly; 5 Colm P Smyth, 6 Barry Gilleran, 7 Diarmuid Masterson; 8 Michael Quinn, 9 Kevin Diffley; 10 Rory Connor (0-3), 11 Ronan McEntire, 12 Peter Foy; 13 Barry McKeon, 14 Brian Kavanagh (0-5, four frees), 15 Ross McNerny.
Subs: 24 Liam Connerton (0-1) for McKeon (17 mins); 23 Dessie Reynolds for Diffley (black card, 28 mins); 21 Aidan Rowan for Smyth (49 mins); 22 Pauric Gill for Connor (53 mins); 17 Fergal Battrim for Masterson (58 mins); 19 Enda Williams for McNerney (69 mins).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)