Dublin squad hopefuls beat Kildare to highlight Leinster quality gap
Cian O’Neill: ‘We are disgusted to lose like that, that we should have been controlling’
Dublin’s Colm Basquel with Eoin Doyle of Kildare during Saturday’s O’Byrne Cup encounter. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Dublin 0-16 Kildare 2-8
Even if Dublin’s hold over Leinster football shouldn’t be measured in terms of anything that happens in January, there was still something a bit depressing about their disposal of Kildare here.
Paul Clarke’s stated aim for the O’Byrne Cup has been to give Jim Gavin some selection headaches when it comes to his league panel so in crude numbers, you’re looking at what would vaguely be considered the 30th- to 55th-ranked players in the county here.
And still they were able to trail a decent enough Kildare side for 55 minutes and win the game scoring the last five points on the spin.
The depth of talent at Dublin’s disposal is brutalising when it comes to competitiveness in the province. Players like Niall Scully, Paul Hudson and Conor McHugh have shone for Dublin in this O’Byrne campaign but they’re still a long way off playing for The Dubs.
Take someone like Scully, who was a cut above everything else on show here.
Named at wing-back, Clarke played him at wing-forward as a challenge to see what he could offer. He ended the day with three points from play, putting on a display of confidence in possession unmatched on either side.
And yet, in all reality, whose place is he threatening in the main Dublin squad? Eric Lowndes? Tomás Brady? Hudson and McHugh are whip-crack inside forwards who contributed key scores from play and frees here but when it comes down to it, who are they going to pick off from the main herd? Con O’Callaghan? Cormac Costello?
The Kildare team they put away here wasn’t at full strength by any means either but they had plenty of championship faces on show.
Eoin Doyle, Niall Kelly and Daniel Flynn all showed well, the Cribbin brothers governed their respective patches to good effect when they were on the pitch, Tommy Moolick and Ollie Lyons came off the bench. And still Clarke’s young side had too much for them by the end.
Typical of the time of year, the football came in fits and starts and mistakes. Kildare banged home a couple of goals in the first half through wing-back Johnny Byrne and full-forward Flynn. Flynn in particular had a huge half, scoring his goal and laying on points for Kelly and midfielder Kevin Feely.
Cian O’Neill’s side led by 2-4 to 0-8 at half-time and were aggrieved not to be further ahead, a second Flynn goal wrongly struck off for square ball.
In a portent of things to come, however, Dublin had scored the last four points of the half. Shane Boland kicked one after nice work by Scully, Ciaran Reddin sallied forward from centre-back for another, Hudson snuck in behind the cover for his fourth of the day, Jason Whelan knocked one over on the burst from midfield. When Dublin turned the screw, Kildare had few answers.
And so it went. Kildare pushed the lead out to four with the first two points of the second half trhrough Ben McCormack and Kelly. But then Scully took over, sniping a couple of lovely points on the run. Even when Neil Flynn chipped two quick score to send Kildare three up with 15 minutes to go, Dublin’s composure gave them the edge at the business end of the game.
Ross Hazley found space to nick a point, Shane Cunningham brought the margin to one with four minutes left. And with the game in the balance, Eoin Doyle took a black card to prevent a nigh-on certain Dublin goal and McHugh tapped the free to level it. In injury-time, Scully and McHugh did the honours and Dublin were through to the final against Louth next Sunday. Kildare were sunk.
“We’re disgusted,” O’Neill lamented afterwards. “It’s not even disappointment. We’re disgusted to lose a match like that that we should have been controlling. It doesn’t matter who the opposition was or that it was a semi-final. For me it should be about what our processes are going forward.
“I didn’t feel it had anything to do with the opposition or the quality of the opposition. I just think it’s something that has been happening to Kildare teams for quite a while. It’s this thing of playing in fits and spurts. When they play with a positive edge, like we did in the first half, we do a lot of damage. But there’s this sort of regular thing of going back into themselves, independent of the opposition.
“So I don’t think it was the fact that we were playing Dublin, I just think that sense of ruthlessness isn’t there in this group. They’re a young group and they’re an emerging group and they’re learning. But at times we were trying to walk the ball into the net instead of just tapping it over and keeping the scoreboard ticking over and missing those chances does affect the confidence of the team, no doubt.”
Back to the drawing board for Kildare, then. A place familiar to pretty much everyone in Leinster.
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Mick O’Grady, David Hyland, Mark Hyland; Johnny Byrne (1-0), Eoin Doyle, Keith Cribbin; Kevin Feely (0-1), Fionn Dowling; Fergal Conway, Niall Kelly (0-2), Paul Cribbin (0-2); Neil Flynn (0-2, 0-1 free), Daniel Flynn (1-0), Ben McCormack (0-1).
Subs: Tommy Moolick for Feely, Ollie Lyons for Hyland (both h-t), Eamonn Callaghan for McCormack (48), Cathal McNally for P Cribbin (49), Shea Ryan for K Cribbin (57), Conor Hartley for Conway (62), David Slattery for N Flynn (64), Keith O’Donoghue for Doyle (bc, 69.).
DUBLIN: Evan Comerford; Jack Smith, Eoin O’Brien, Ross McGowan; Niall Scully (0-3), Ciaran Reddin (0-1), Robert Gaughan; Jason Whelan (0-1), Conor Mullally; Ross Hazley (0-1), Shane Boland (0-1), Niall Walsh, Paul Hudson (0-4, two frees), Michael Deegan, Conor McHugh (0-3, one free).
Subs: Colm Basquel (0-1) for Walsh (31), Killian O’Gara for M Deegan, Robbie McDaid for Boland (both h-t), Shane Cunningham (0-1) for Hudson (42), Gavin Ivory for Reddin (59). Referee: David Hickey (Carlow)