Patient Dublin work themselves past other-worldly McManus

Jim Gavin unhappy with his team’s performance but Dublin make it three from three

 

This is becoming a habit that Monaghan must wonder how they feel about getting into. Saturday night in Croke Park was the fourth league meeting between these sides in six seasons and it washed out Dublin’s third one-point victory. It was the second time in a row that Monaghan have held a late lead only to spill it in stoppage-time.

Consistently putting the best team in the land to the pin of their collar is a sign of rude enough health. But equally, failing to get over the line time and again is the stuff mental blocks tend to be made of. True, Malachy O’Rourke isn’t going to lose a lot of sleep over a couple of points dropped in late February. But Dublin have never lost to Monaghan in the championship and the more nights like this filter into the DNA of both counties, the easier it gets to see why.

Jim Gavin’s side allowed Monaghan to shin all the way up the rope ladder here before reaching for the knife and cutting it loose. The defending champions went 26 second-half minutes with only a Paul Flynn point to show for labours and at no point did they look capable of keeping Conor McManus in check at the other end. Yet in the end – and for the second game in a row between these sides – McManus had to grit his teeth through a Man of the Match interview after coming out on the wrong side of the result.

Classy score

Bernard Brogan

“Performance wise we wouldn’t be particularly happy with that,” said Jim Gavin. “But to get two points and to come away from playing a good side like Monaghan, where they started very well in the first-half and built up a commanding lead is good. The third quarter of the game, we started well and built up a lead and got some great scores but again let them back into it. But the final 10 minutes, I thought the boys showed good resolve, good character, good spirit to eke out a couple of scoring opportunities and to come away with the two points.”

In front of a 17,080 crowd, there was enterprising stuff from both sides. Monaghan did onto Dublin as Dublin have done onto others – took their kick-outs quickly, moved upfield at pace, fed their inside line of McManus and Darren Hughes with sharp, early ball. In reply, Dublin had to be patient in the face of Monaghan’s double sweeper. Though it took a while, they switched from a kicking game to a running game eventually and made their hay that way.

Alien

Dublin are around long enough not to quail at the sight of one special player though. For all that McManus dominated the opening half, Dublin still went in 0-10 to 0-9 ahead at the break. And when Diarmuid Connolly rolled in a penalty seven minutes after the restart, they held a five-point lead. Monaghan rallied and made a game of it, keeping it in doubt right up to the end. Dublin never looked like they doubted they’d give themselves the chances to win. Both sides in a nutshell, right there.

“They’re a very experienced team and they’re used to winning,” said O’Rourke of Dublin. “That’s why it’s great to be in Division One. You can learn an awful lot about individual players, you can learn an awful lot about systems of play.”

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