Dublin 2-24 Offaly 0-13
Dublin duly administered the last rites to Offaly at Parnell Park on Sunday to consign the Midlanders to next year’s Joe McDonagh Cup. The visitors had already looked doomed to that fate, having the effective relegation playoff away and playing for a fourth successive week, a burden that even better resourced counties might struggle to carry.
There was also a curious selection detail with top scorer Shane Dooley "rested," according to manager Kevin Martin, until his second-half introduction.
“We just thought Shane looked a bit flat in the last couple of games as well. We thought if we were there or thereabouts with Dublin with 25 minutes to go you could bring him on and give the thing a bit of a boost and it just didn’t work out. Today was just a disaster.”
His opposite number Pat Gilroy admitted that Dublin had betrayed signs of nerves in the first half before Paul Ryan's injury-time goal, crisply finished after Liam Rushe had broken a high ball from captain, Chris Crummey for a 1-10 to 0-5 lead.
Up until then, Dublin had endured a frustrating time. Whereas their defence was solid and allowed their opponents little space with some claustrophobic marking, the forwards were careless, hitting 13 wides and turning over possession through over-elaboration but Offaly weren't giving them much latitude either and captain, David King was yellow-carded as early in exchanges as the third minute.
What inroads were being made on the scoreboard were courtesy of the home team's half backs – Shane Barrett and Crummey finished the match with four points each.
As Martin later indicated his team were fatigued and but for Dublin’s misfiring, the match would have been over by half-time. It all took its toil in the second half.
“We were trying to work the ball out and mentally we were making mistakes. Concentration levels were going and we brought in a few subs that lifted it in places but the game was gone.”
The replacements nearly outscored the starting 15 and the selected forwards didn’t manage a single point from play.
Dublin found their rhythm in the second half and the difference between the teams, suggested by the disparity in their respective results against Kilkenny and Wexford, duly opened, as Offaly struggled.
The winners’ half backs were the best on show. Although he didn’t set the scoreboard spinning like his wing backs, Seán Moran was composed and efficient, as he tidied up at the heart of the defence.
Joe Bergin’s frees had been Offaly’s most fruitful source of scores but he missed a few that Dooley would probably have got but that was immaterial and in the opening eight minutes Dublin added 1-4 with just a point in reply – the goal another collaboration between Crummey and Rushe, this time finished by Fergal Whitely.
Conal Keaney, not quite at the level that had nearly done for Kilkenny, added a couple of points as did Jake Malone and the match was over.
Offaly got a 20-metre free but Bergin's shot, which had power but not direction, was saved by Alan Nolan. Their replacements did better up front, adding 0-6 to the total, but it water pistol and furnace stuff at that stage.
Pat Gilroy was asked did it feel odd that Dublin’s season would now end next weekend in early June.
“Especially when you’ve been going well,” he said. “It’s lessons for us. We have to learn how to finish games and close them out.”
They face All-Ireland champions Galway on Saturday but it may not be a full muster with their opponents already in the Leinster final.
“They might do (rest players) but we can’t control that. It’s important for us to get another decent performance. The League wasn’t what we wanted it to be and the championship hasn’t been what we wanted it to be but the performances have been decent and we want to get another good one next weekend.”
It’s been an encouraging if brief championship for Dublin and they have preserved their Liam MacCarthy status. Offaly haven’t and Kevin Martin didn’t hold out much hope for a committee room miracle.
“No disrespect to the teams in the lower tier we’re going into now but you have to be playing the Dublin’s, Kilkenny’s and Wexford’s to improve. There’s been calls to bring the winners of the Joe McDonagh up and just make six out of it – it would be great for Offaly if they did. But that’s for top table; that’s not for us.”
DUBLIN: 1. Alan Nolan; 2. Paddy Smith, 3. Cian O'Callaghan, 4. Eoghan O'Donnell; 7. Chris Crummey (capt; 0-4), 6. Seán Moran, 5. Shane Barrett (0-4); 8. Rian McBride (0-1), 9. Jake Malone (0-2); 10. Fiontán McGibb (0-1), 11. Conal Keaney (0-2), 12. Danny Sutcliffe; 13. Fergal Whitely (1-1), 14. Liam Rushe (0-2), 15. Paul Ryan (1-5, four points frees).
Subs: 23. Cian Boland (0-2) for Whitely (51 mins), 22. Tomás Connolly for McBride (55 mins), for ( mins), 24. David Treacy for Keaney (57 mins), 21. John McCaffrey for McGibb 26. Paul Winters for Rushe (64 mins).
OFFALY: 1. Eoghan Cahill (0-1, free); 4. David O'Toole Greene, 3. Ben Conneely, 2. Tom Spain; 5. Seán Gardiner, 6. Pat Camon, 7. David King (capt.); 8. Dan Currams (0-2), 9. Darren Egan; 12. Shane Kinsella, 11. Colin Egan, 10 Tommy Geraghty; 13. Seán Ryan, 14. Conor Mahon, 15. Joe Bergin (0-4, all frees).
Subs: 20. Shane Dooley (0-2, frees) for Ryan (42 mins), 25. Ronan Hughes for D Egan (48 mins), 26. Kevin Dunne (0-1) for Kinsella (48 mins), 18. Paddy Murphy (0-2) for C Egan (48 mins), 21. James Gorman (0-1) for Bergin (55 mins).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).