Dublin 2-25 Longford 0-12
And now for the news. There's little enough point in walking the curious reader through the precise whats and what-happeneds of this Leinster semi-final – look at the scoreline, imagine what kind of day it might have been and whatever you come up with won't be far off the mark. Dublin are an ocean better than Longford, better than everyone else in Leinster too. Nothing really to report there.
By far the most interesting moment of the day, however, came in the 22nd minute when Longford full-forward James McGivney poleaxed Stephen Cluxton in mid-air after the Dublin goalkeeper came out to punch a dropping ball clear.
McGivney was rightly sent off for his troubles – he saw Cluxton in the air and jumped into him rather than make any effort not to collide with him. As for the injured party, Cluxton was immediately replaced by Evan Comerford.
It was Cluxton's first time not finishing a championship game for Dublin since his sending off against Armagh in 2003. More worryingly for Dublin, he was taken to hospital after the game with what Jim Gavin described as "a blow to the lower-back". What it means for the rest of his – and their – season wasn't immediately clear. "We'll review it in the next 24, 48 hours and assess the situation," was as much as Gavin could say on the matter afterwards.
Comerford did fine in his absence but a game like this is no serious test of anyone’s suitability for the role. He hadn’t a single save to make and since Longford were down to 14 men, there was no pressure on his kick-outs. Indeed the only kick-out Dublin lost all day was a short flick to Darren Daly that turned out to be too short and failed to cross the 20-metre line – Maurice Deegan threw up the ball, Michael Darragh Macauley caught it and Dublin were given a free out.
If Cluxton’s absence is going to be for any extended length of time, Comerford’s claim on the role will only be proven when it is proven. The first game of the Super-8s is only five weeks away. The All-Ireland champions will already be heading into them without Diarmuid Connolly and there’s no imminent sign of Bernard Brogan.
They did get Jack McCaffrey and Cian O’Sullivan back on the pitch here so there’s no need to cry them a river just yet. But we always said we’d really find out what they were made of if Cluxton wasn’t there. Interesting times ahead.
Certainly more interesting than anything that happened here. Dennis Connerton’s side were whistling into a gale even with 15 men on the pitch. McGiveny’s red card came when they were 1-8 to 0-4 behind and was sandwiched between the two Dublin goals.
For the first, Macauley careered in behind the Longford defence like an 18-wheeler that's had its brakes cut and flicked a late pass to Dean Rock who punched home. For the second, Paul Mannion mugged Liam Connerton as he pressed up on a short kick-out and though Paddy Collum got his hand on the shot, pure power took it past him into the top corner.
Collum actually had a fine game between the sticks for Longford. He made three fine saves in the second half from Macauley, Mannion and Colm Basquel and also planted one of the points of the day from a 45 out near the right sideline. But like the rest of them, he was playing in a different game to the one Dublin were concerning themselves with.
"We tried not to change our gameplan," said Denis Connerton afterwards. "We knew what we were facing – one of the greatest teams of this era. I refer to Dublin as the Real Madrid, they're an absolutely outstanding team. The last thing we needed was to go down to 14 men but that was the way it was. It was a massive, massive battle for us after that. It was uphill from the start but after that it was very difficult for us.
“We’re absolutely drained after that game. Our lads put as much as they possibly could into it. We were nervous at the start, a little bit nervous, and we were slow to start in the game, but I suppose that was to be expected. We tried to get as good a start as we possibly could, we’d spoken a lot about that. But they’re some team, they’re so economical in their shooting and they’re so economical with their passing, all you can do is admire them.
“We have to be upbeat about this. There weren’t too many people giving us any hope of winning. There were a lot of people in Lourdes and Lough Derg praying for us – obviously a prayer that doesn’t work. But we’re back in our favourite competition, we’re back in the qualifiers. We’re after missing out on the first round for the first time in 10 years. We’re just back there again. We’re going in at the second round of it, and hopefully that works.”
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; E Lowndes, M Fitzsimons, P Mc Mahon (0-1), J McCarthy (0-1), J Cooper, B Howard (0-1), B Fenton (0-4), MD Macauley; N Scully (0-1), C O'Callaghan (0-2), P Mannion (1-2); D Rock (1-6, 5f), C Kilkenny, (0-4), P Andrews (0-1).
Subs: E Comerford for Cluxton (b/s 22m); D Daly for Fitzsimons (h/t); J McCaffrey for Cooper (h/t); K McManamon for Andrews (49m); C Basquel (0-2) for Mannion (49m); C O’Sullivan for McCarthy (54m); P Flynn for Macauley (56m).
LONGFORD; P Collum; P Fox, P McCormack, D Masterson; M Quinn (0-1), D McElligott (0-1), D Mimnagh; D: Gallagher (0-1), C Berry; D Reynolds (0-1), D McGivney (0-1, 1f), L Connerton; R Smyth (0-5, 3f), J McGivney, R Brady (0-1).
Subs: S McCormack (0-1) for Connerton (27m); B Gilleran for Quinn (b/c 55m); M Nally for D McGivney (64m); P Foy for Reynolds (65m); D Quinn for Masterson (65m); S Donohoe for Mimnagh (70m).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)