Groundhog Day at Croke Park as Dublin return to winning ways

Cormac Costello and Dean Rock impress in 11-point win over outgunned Galway

Dublin 1-15 Galway 0-7

World order restored, Dublin looking casual and then perfectly calculated in getting back to winning ways at Croke Park. It is, after all, Groundhog Day.

It was far from vintage Dublin but it doesn’t need to be. Not yet anyway. They slowly, then very surely, wore down Galway, just like they did in the All-Ireland semi-final last summer to claim their first league win of 2019, sending out a minor statement too of where they intend on going from here.

It all had that casual, predictable feel about it too, played before an attendance of 14,502, one the lowest turnouts in the recent history of the Spring Series, sporting events on the south of the river possibly having something to do with it.


In the now seven long years since Dublin last lost two league games in succession, under previous manager Pat Gilroy, consistency has become the middle name. Defeat to Monaghan last Sunday was not entirely unexpected and put that little bit more expectation on to Jim Gavin's team. The sort of expectation they embrace.

On what turned out to be pretty fine night for football, chilly air aside, effort got the better of execution, a low-scoring first-half anyway. Only in the last 20 minutes did Dublin begin to find range – and Hill 16 find its voice.

Cormac Costello, a little muted last Sunday, forced his way into the game, kicking two sweet points in succession on 54 minutes, and two minutes after that Dean Rock latched onto a high ball sent in by substitute Paul Flynn and bang – just like that, is seemed, Dublin were up 1-11 to 0-6, and there was no way back for Galway.

Costello finished with six points, five from play, plus one offensive mark, and a man-of-the-match award to bring home too.

Playing the defence, defence, defence tactic, both teams crowding back accordingly, space and scoring chances early on came at a premium. Galway found more of it, hitting two opening points inside 10 minutes, first Cillian McDaid, then Peter Cooke.

Confident after an opening win over Cavan, Galway were certainly the better team for the opening half hour – Pádraig Cunningham missing one up-close goal chance on 16 minutes – only to still find themselves a point down, right on 30-minute mark, when Rock kicked his second free to edge Dublin in front, 0-5 to 0-4, for the first time in the game.

Gavin made the obligatory late changes, giving first senior Dublin starts to Liam Flatman (in place of Michael Darragh Macauley) and Seán Bugler (for Brian Howard). Flatman, from Kilmacud Crokes, slipped into corner back, while Ryan Basquel, brother of Colm, also got his first start at corner forward, later to be replaced by Howard.

After Paul Mannion hit Dublin's first point on 11 minutes, Bugler chipped over his first soon after, the St Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Ruadh man strong and steady on his feet.

Galway manager Kevin Walsh also made two late changes, starting Cein D'Arcy for Barry McHugh, and Johnny Duanne for David Wynne.

Mannion finished with two from play, Rock taking his tally in the end to 1-5, with three frees; Niall Scully also helped himself to an offensive mark, Dublin getting a hold on that rule for the first time.

Damien Comer, injured playing a charity match over Christmas, is still a notable absentee up front for Galway, although Peter Cooke showed up for plenty of ball. Still Galway only managed a paltry two points in the second half, from replacement Barry McHugh and Johnny Heaney. In the end it was all too familiar. Groundhog Day.

DUBLIN: 1 E Comerford; 2 E Lowndes, 3 M Fitzsimons, 21 L Flatman; 4 E Murchan, 6 J Cooper, 7 J Small; 5 J McCarthy, 8 B Fenton; 12 N Scully (0-1, mark), 11 C Costello (0-6, one mark), 19 S Bugler (0-1); 15 R Basquel, 14 D Rock (1-5, three frees), 13 P Mannion (0-2).

Subs: 10 B Howard for Basquel (48 mins), 22 P Flynn for Bugler (54), 18 J McCaffrey for Small, D Gavin for McCarthy (both 60), 24 C McHugh for Mannion (65).

GALWAY: 1 M Breathnach; 6 G Bradshaw, 7 S Kelly, 2 E Kerin; 5 G O'Donnell, 3 S A O Ceallaigh, 12 J Heaney (0-1); 8 K Duggan, 9 T Flynn; 10 C McDaid (0-2), 23 J Duane, 11 P Cooke (0-2); 13 P Cunningham, 22 Cein D'Arcy, 14 S Walsh (0-1, free).

Subs: 15 B McHugh (0-1, free) for McDaid (h/t), 21 D Cummins for Cunningham, F Cooney for D'Arcy (both 60 mins), 17 G Armstrong for Cooke (62), D Cunnane for O Ceallaigh (66).

Referee: Ciarán Branagan (Down).

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics