Well now an hours spin down the road turned into a very productive and entertaining evening in our home away from home in Portlaoise. Not even the M7 road works could dampen the excitement as the blue wall returned to championship action.
Many Dubs traveled with plenty of questions after an uncharacteristic league display in second gear. Had the hunger evaporated, were we to long on the road, was the gap slowly being closed on this decade of the Dubs, had the retirement/regression/M.I.A.ing of the likes of Flynn, Brogan, Connolly caught up with Dublin, had teams simply just cracked the Dublin code?
In all honesty myself and i suspect many Dubs left portlaoise reassured and very very optimistic come 9ish on a twilight Saturday summer evening.
The game was played in great carnival atmosphere that the Dubs always bring, with many stragglers for the first game hanging around for 45 mins of our game. With the Bodhrans on the go and the familiar tunes banging out. The Dubs took to the field in front of a pretty much full house. Credit to our Leinster cousins.
The named team started and looked a bit of a rag tag make shift bunch on announcement: Cluxton, Davy Bryne, Cian, Fitzer, Jamesy, Small, Jack, Fenton, Gavin, Costello, Howard, Scully, Mannion, Kilkenny, Con. Greater minds then mine were at play though.
The game started with Louth looking bright and fresh and Dublin not getting in to their groove. Louth took first blood and looked dangerous in the opening five mins, with Dublin looking a bit sloppy and not finding the fluency in working their scores. The opening exchanges looked a bit worrisome, with Louth trying the high ball route and getting out in front of their markers under it and on more then one occasion, getting in one on one on Dublin defenders isolated at times. Dublin were blowing out the dirty petrol for the first five.
Dublin flipped the switch shortly after and the game became a non event very shortly. Dublin won a lot of turnover in defense and in the middle and got from the back line to the forward line in about 5 seconds via three moves on more the one occassion, taking on scores at will, culminating in Con scoring a scrappy goal in an exhibition in quality build up play and running. The game ended as a contest then.
Dublin moved the ball around up and down the filed, side to side at will and hunted in packs to win turn over when they didn't have it.
Louith simply couldn't deal with the pace and intensity Dublin were playing with both in defensive and offensive play and the only solution was to hit men and give away frees. Costello gobbled them up as Dublin raised a cricket score before half time.
Two minutes after the goal, Mannion competed for a high ball and left afters on Conal McKeever, it was a late challenge and he took the man out of it. I was on the other side but it looked a big collision and i haven't seen it back to say whether he deserved the red or not. On reflection though it indicated a bit of a sea change in how refs will deal with high challenges this year. Seems like a zero tolerance policy after what happened to Paddy Andrews. In the interests of fairness. Davy Byrne should have saw red for me in the second half on what was essentially challenging for a high ball but was essentially a punch in the face, he was a lucky boy that the ref didn't see it. Looked a worse one to me then Mannions.
If anything the red card saw Dublin up a gear and played as if a knife through butter for the rest of the half, racking up a healthy lead before halftime.
Dublin came out the second half and seemed to up it again, really it was Harlem globetrotters stuff scoring goals and points at will for the remainder of the game. It was really beautiful stuff to watch. Exhibition, in running, moving the ball from front to back, moving the ball from wing to wing, breaking at pace, intricate football, kick passing and running, we looked very, very, very good.
An aspect of the second half, that was really pleasing was the bench, Michael Darragh Macauley, Philly McMahon, Rory O'Carroll, Paddy Small, Kevin McManamon and Sean Bugler all came on.
MDM looked a man possessed, he was immense when came on shades of 11-13 and was huge upgrade on young Gavin. Philly also seemed to role back the years also even got a goal. Rory looked like he was never away, playing with quality and creativity that became his hall mark, he and Fitzer play so well together and some of the interplay between him and Cluxton was great. Was hugely impressed by Paddy Small who when came on was involved in a phase of play beating four men, culminating in a goal, a second that should have been a goal and showing brilliant creativity throughout, he looks like he has come on fanatically in 12 months, talented boy, delighted he got a score. Macker did what Macker does ran lads into the ground, bursting through tackles. Bugler is a lovely footballer, but was very keen to make an impression and got a couple of rushes of blood to his head, will be a player but hes not the finished article yet. All in all Dublin conservatively hit a cricket score. But fair play to Louth they played the game in the right way and expansively and i thought they gave it there all for the whole 70 mins, their fans like wise. I hope and expect them to represent themselves well in the remainder of the championship.
In analysis, i was hugely impressed with how we played yesterday. Cormac will get the headlines. But my man of the match was Niall Scully, he was sublime from a play making pint of view, end product, work rate and running, he is really becoming a top top player, put in a performence in half forward play that Anton or Paul Flynn would have been proud of which says it all really and so fitting.
Cormac was brilliant, hes had such a hard time with injuries, that no one would begrudge this being his break out year, as strange as that sounds, with pocket full of all Irelands, He always had the quality to be Dublins best player, hopefully this yer he can fulfill it regularly. Hes given Deano a job of work to do and training ins going to be fun.
Kilkenny was superb, pops up everywhere and controls the tempo of the game, best footballer in Ireland for me.
Jamesy was just out of this world, lads were trying to challenge him and bouncing of him. He was running through lads like they weren't there. One stand out was the DUblin team looks like they have bulked up hugely, perhaps after the league and getting bullied in a few games, ive no concerns after yesterday they look beast and brought an edge. It looks like much work has been done. Jack looked game, he absolutely flew around the pitch and sprinted of jumping barriers at half time.
The hunger looked as much there if not more so then any other year, lads were tenacious and you can see llads are scrapping to getting into the panel like their life depended on it, never mind the team.
Rory came back into team to a roar on 45 mins, like he was never away immediately brought stability, creativity and calmness to the back line. He gives us a different dimension, in his own creativity, under the high ball, defending skills, but he also unlocks our full backs, Philly got a goal and Fitzer scored his first championship point in 91 appearances for Dublin via 6 All Ireland winner medals. :D
We gave three championship debuts yesterday to Gavin, Small and Bugler. Small was the stand out. Gavin is a neat and tidy player and a tall man he enables some excellent fielding and a line of Fenton, Gavin and Howard. He is growing into this level, he needs to step up a bit more to be relevant this year in my opinion, but its clear he has a bright future, we know that from his U20 days, and Jim sees a lot in him. Bugler a lovely footballer, but maybe a year to soon for him at this level.
There were no real negatives, Fento was a bit uncharacteristically sloppy at times, the defense was caught out once or twice early doors but nothing really to write home about.
All in all, i was hugely excited by what i saw yesterday, massive quality on show. Whisper it quietly but there feels like something, new and innovative about this Dublin team. It feels fresh and new and while for some of the lads it inst their first year, its clear many of the younger players of recent years have really kicked on and we doing something new and different. It was a different Dublin display to previous years yesterday. I was reflecting on Paul Flynn and some of the quotes i heard from him that it was time to give some of the young players in the squad there fling and how training with them maybe colored his thinking about his ability to carry on. On yesterdays evidence i can see where he was coming from.
Its worthwhile remembering, that there was no Eric Lowdenss yesterday, Dean Rock Bernard Brogan, Murch or Jonny Cooper in the cohort that traveled to Porlaoise. Im glad im not picking the match day panel, never mind the team.
Left Portloaise feeling hugely reassured and really confident on the year ahead, there is plenty of wind in the sails in the Dublin ship, if anything i think we are developing more and improving. But a short sample size so far against a good but not top tier Louth team admittedly. Something felt new and different yesterday though about this team and how they went about it.
We go again and welcome either Kildare or Longford to the home of Dublin football in two weeks time, be nice to dust off a few Corker cobwebs and warm up the Hill for the summer ahead.
TheUsername (Dublin) - Posts: 3231 - 26/05/2019 14:58:41