Malachy Clerkin: Dublin’s loss to Monaghan no more than a pipe-opener
Not the first opening league game defeat for Dubs but still no cracks visible yet
Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley clashes with Monaghan’s Darren Hughes during the Allianz Football League Division 1 clash between the counties in Clones on January 27th Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
While the 2-13 to 1-13 victory obviously made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for the locals, its significance when it comes to the overall picture is likely to be slight.
After all, away back at the beginning of the drive for five, Dublin lost their opening league game of 2015 too.
If there are cracks in the edifice, this defeat can’t be taken as proof.
It was a great workout for our guys and will really bring us on over the next couple of weeks
And yet, and yet. On a hoary cold day up by the Border, Monaghan did at least get rewarded for not allowing a losing cause to be a lost one.
They trailed by six points inside the opening 20 minutes and refused to allow business as usual to ensue.
This is their second win in a row over Dublin in the league and by the end, it was a far more complete one than their smash-and-grab effort in Croke Park last year.
That they took their lumps and came back at the champions is no small thing. And if they can do it, others ought to reason that it’s far from impossible.
True, Dublin were without Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey, Ciarán Kilkenny and James McCarthy. But Monaghan didn’t play Niall Kearns, Vinny Corey, Drew Wylie and Kieran Hughes and they left Conor McManus on the bench until the closing half hour.
It was his introduction along with scintillating debutant Stephen O’Hanlon that turned the game inexorably in Monaghan’s direction.
“Coming into the game we weren’t exactly sure where we stood,” said Malachy O’Rourke afterwards. “We only came back in December and we couldn’t have that much work behind us. We wanted to be competitive and no better team than Dublin to give you an idea of where you’re at. We started off very slowly, we gave the ball away an awful lot early on. But as the game went on, we started to get to grips with things and after the opening 20-25 minutes, we’d be very pleased with the performance.”
For Dublin, this was a pipe-opener and no more.
Thing is, they usually win their pipe-openers. Ryan Basquel was lively off the bench and Con O’Callaghan was busy even when Monaghan were on top. But otherwise, it was all very January.
Jim Gavin knows as much and he was pretty relaxed about it afterwards.
“Disappointed the result didn’t go our way,” was Gavin’s verdict.
“But I’m really pleased with the endeavour of the Dublin players. We’re back just two weeks today so we’ve a lot of ground to catch up on other teams and obviously Monaghan have been doing a lot of work pre-season and it showed up towards the latter half of the game.
“But I thought it was a great workout for our guys and will really bring us on over the next couple of weeks.”