Dubs survive tough test
THE only bottom line that matters in a championship match is that you are still standing when the final whistle is blown. Amid the furore about the free that was or wasn’t at the end of this titanic struggle – the only thing that matters for Pat Gilroy’s men is that they are in a Leinster final after surviving the mammoth struggle we all knew it was going to be against Kildare.
Kildare fans and football neutrals will be dismayed at the final moments. But the reality is that Dublin were well worth this 1-12 to 1-11 victory.
Eamonn Callaghan scored a marvellous late goal but this individual piece of magic aside, Kildare hadn’t looked capable of engineering a way back into the game. They hadn’t looked capable of winning the match despite numerical advantage in scorching heat and with Dublin a number of degrees below their peak performance. Kildare kicked nine wides which – at first glance - is an improvement on the 17 a game average they were on. But they actually dropped seven into Cluxton’s welcoming arms and that is every bit as bad as hitting the corner flag.
Dublin’s goal tally is up to 32 from 14 games and just as against Laois, it should have been more with an Alan Brogan effort taken off the goal line and Diarmuid Connolly taking a wrong option early on and blazing wide. Dublin will be happy to win in those circumstances, but improvement is needed. The damage report is topped by Michael Darragh Macauley, the hardworking midfielder who is out for several weeks after a nasty compound fracture. It was interesting that Gilroy chose to give Eamon Fennell and Ross McConnell game time against Kildare as both will be needed against the various man mountains trotted out by Wexford in the Leinster final.
Eoghan O’Gara picked up a second yellow and was sent off – and this set the scene for what must be the really pleasing thing for Gilroy – namely the response of the players to adversity on the hottest day of the year, on the biggest pitch in the game, against arguably the fittest team of them all.
For Dublin to pass that test in those conditions tells us a lot about how the team has developed since the harsh lessons of last summer against Cork.
For O’Gara, it’s another unnecessary break in an inter-county career that promises so much – if an avoidance of injury and ill discipline can be avoided. Although in his defence, his first yellow card last Sunday was completely harmless. But once brandished he was always on thin ice but continued to work hard and is lucky that the second yellow shouldn’t effect his role in the build up to the Leinster final. His Templeogue Synge Street team mate Denis Bastick produced one of his finest shifts in sky blue and was a vital outlet for short kick outs and kept Kildare danger man John Doyle scoreless from open play.
The big heroes for Dublin were the members of the full back line, namely newcomer Paul Conlon alongside Rory O’Carroll and Mick Fitzsimons who were clearly targeted by Kieran McGeeney’s men but who stood up to the examination impressively. Kildare asked serious questions of Dublin at stages of both halves – especially shutting down space for Stephen Cluxton’s kick outs. But the Dubs responded to that pressure and their burst at the end of the first half and their response to Kildare’s shock late goal were signs that the team has learned to persevere rather than panic.
This was always going to be Dublin’s stiffest test in Leinster. The late free for Bernard Brogan looked a harsh call but the normally reserved Pat Gilroy was animated in his insistence that there had been previous little given to the Dublin attack for off the ball fouling and that the late break was overdue. Maybe, just maybe, Dublin’s luck is starting to turn.
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