Ruthless third quarter display puts Dublin in control
Champions rattle off 2-6 to end Kildare’s hopes of springing a big surprise
Dublin’s Brian Fenton gets his shot away despite the efforts of Kildare’s Cathal McNally at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Dublin 2-17 Kildare 2-10
Jim Gavin was, believe it or believe it not, in pretty jovial form on Saturday night in Croke Park.
“Happy new season, everybody!” he shouted – well, announced, at least – as he walked into the press-room smiling after his Dublin side had eventually got their legs under them to record a 2-17 to 2-10 win over Kildare.
We nearly didn’t know what to say in response so we muttered our replies warily, as if trying to work out if this was a ruse of some sort. But no, he was just being sound.
He will have to forgive us our dubious looks. We are already conditioned to disbelieve most of what we see and hear in this year’s league and Saturday’s run-out at headquarters only confirmed that our suspicions are legit.
For half the game, Kildare were much the better side – more assured on the ball, more direct, more inventive. And then for 10 minutes after half-time, Dublin clicked into gear and wiped the floor with them and that was that. We left knowing no more than when we arrived.
“We kicked a lot of it away and handpassed a lot of it away,” said Gavin of that first-half, after which Kildare led by 1-6 to 0-7.
“I wouldn’t put it down to rust, just good tackling by Kildare. But certainly the second half and that third quarter, we scored 2-6 to their one point and that set us up to score 2-10 from play in the second half. We’d be certainly satisfied with that. But the way we closed the game out wouldn’t be good enough and it gives us something to think about going up to Healy Park for Tyrone next week.
“We would not be satisfied with the lack of clinical finishing. It’s something that could come back to haunt us on another day and I wouldn’t use the fact that we’ve only been back at it for two weeks as an excuse. You’re either clinical or you’re not and that wasn’t good enough.”
Whatever about their finishing, it was the goal Dublin gave away in that first half that was the greatest departure from the norm for them. The concession to Luke Flynn in the ninth minute was so slapdash it would have made any coach stop a training session and start hurting some people’s feelings.
A Paul Cribbin point attempt was dropping wide at the far post and everyone except Flynn moved to get ready for the kick-out. Even Stephen Cluxton switched off, meaning that when Flynn gathered on the endline and turned inside, the Dublin goalkeeper wasn’t set for the shot and barely stuck a foot out as it beat him at his near post. It was about as neat a summing up of Dublin’s first half as you could ask for.
Kildare’s problem was that they didn’t take their chances in that spell. Daniel Flynn blazed over twice when faced with one-on-ones with Cluxton. He eventually did bag one near the end – a far more difficult chance than either of his first-half misses – but by then, he was like a lawyer making a point in an empty courtroom after the judge had gone home. When the game was a game, he didn’t get it done.
Dublin have no instinct for mercy in these matters. They haven’t lost to a Leinster team in the league since 2008 (a stat that comes to you courtesy of the man from The Sun, in all fairness) and weren’t about to start now.
Brian Fenton had been given plenty to think about by Kevin Feely in the first half but he was in lordly form after the restart, chipping in with 1-2 of the 2-6 the Dubs ran up in the 10-minute spell that killed the game. Dean Rock pinged home a goal as well – both his and Fenton’s having been set up by old-dog flicks from Bernard Brogan. It got very ugly very quickly for Kildare and Dublin were out the gap.
“I think a quality side were ruthless,” was Cian O’Neill’s assessment. “We exposed ourselves. Turned the ball over way too much. Lost control of our kickout strategy – and they’re as ruthless as quality champions are.
“I really feel we were the architects of our own downfall in many things out there. That’s not to say they wouldn’t have scored anyway. I think they were obviously by far the better side over the 70 minutes, but what’s disappointing for us is that – similar to some of the matches we lost last year – we gave the ball away cheaply and we really paid for it dearly.”
DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; David Byrne, Mick Fitzsimons; Darren Daly; Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy, John Small (0-1); Brian Fenton (1-3), Michael Darragh Macauley; Brian Howard (0-2), Ciarán Kilkenny (0-2), Niall Scully (0-2); Colm Basquel (0-3), Dean Rock (1-2, 0-2 frees), Bernard Brogan (0-1). Subs: Kevin McManamon (0-1) for Macauley, 47 mins; Eric Lowndes for Cooper, 50 mins; Paul Mannion for Rock, 55 mins; Philly McMahon for Fitzsimons, 55 mins; Cillian O’Shea for Daly, 59 mins; Paddy Andrews for Brogan, 60 mins
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan (0-1, free); Peter Kelly, David Hyland, Mick O’Grady; Johnny Byrne, Eoin Doyle, Cian O’Donoghue; Kevin Feely (0-2, 0-2 frees), Luke Flynn (1-0); Fergal Conway, Chris Healy, Paul Cribbin (0-1); Neil Flynn (0-1, free), Daniel Flynn (1-2), Cathal McNally. Subs: David Slattery for N Flynn, 2 mins; Niall Kelly for Healy, 20 mins (black card); Tommy Moolick for Conway, 51 mins; Ben McCormack for L Flynn, 56 mins; Mark Hyland for Kelly, 61 mins; Eamonn Callaghan (0-3, 0-3 frees) for Feely, 61 mins
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)