By Paul Keane
With Galway on the horizon, and Dublin more resembling chess masters than fearless free-spirited footballers against Tyrone, Colin Moran talked about the need for inspiration before yesterday’s game.
The former Dublin captain noted while they’re still winning the big games, it’s often “with expert game management and strategy more than moments of individual genius”. It was an interesting take on a team missing the once-in-a- lifetime talents of Diarmuid Connolly and, until yesterday, Bernard Brogan, but still managing to get the job done.
Moran wrote in his Irish Sun column that, with Galway in mind, this was an “ideal opportunity to give minutes to players who might give Dublin that vital spark they’re missing — I’m thinking about Cormac Costello, Conor McHugh and Colm Basquel”.
All three featured in the dead rubber Super 8s tie though it was Costello who stood up to answer Moran’s call with nine points, six of which arrived from play, and a carefree display to excite the supporters.
It’s two years since Costello, still just 24, fired three points to see off Mayo in the 2016 All-Ireland final replay before being laid low by injuries.
Now he’s back on top form and hinting he could be ready to be their inspiration again.
“Cormac’s been showing that form for a good few months now,” said boss Jim Gavin. “A result of all his hard work is the performance you saw, but we’ve been seeing that from him in the shadows.”
Or maybe it’s Eoghan O’Gara that will provide the cunning against Galway next weekend and beyond.
Nobody needs much background on the big Templeogue Synge Street man who has been popping up with memorable cameos for years.
Like Costello, he got his chance yesterday with top spot in the group, and the Galway date next Saturday, already assured and scored 2-2. His play is primal at times, pulling balls out of the sky and powering past men, the story of his second goal, and Dublin’s fourth, as it happens. But it’s highly effective.
Or what about Brogan? Just 23 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair his cruciate knee ligament, Brogan returned to blue in what was a quite remarkable story.
He was only on the field for four minutes as a late blood substitute for Mark Schutte though every second must have felt sweet given how hard he’s battled to get back.
“To still apply himself as dedicated and as diligently as he did over the last five-and-a-half months has been remarkable, but he’s got such a positive outlook on life,” said Gavin. “From the day the injury happened he was very focused on getting back around this time of the year and it’s happened for him.
“He’s got a lot of support obviously from family and friends but it’s down to Bernard himself. He’s put a lot of hard work in there and that hard work has paid off. It’s good to have him back.”
Brogan was always adamant that he would return to play in the Championship and Gavin said he wasn’t surprised to see it happen.
“No, not surprised, if you were talking to him over the last five months you’d realise it hasn’t been a surprise at all,” said the four-time All-Ireland winning boss. “He’s been very focused on what he wants to get from himself and a great medical team in Dublin has given him great support over the last couple of months. No, I haven’t been surprised.”
Yet it appeared by Gavin’s use of substitutes that he wasn’t planning on introducing Brogan at all.
He brought on six players including fringe attackers Conor McHugh, Schutte and Paddy Small and only thrust Brogan into action as a blood sub late on.
Asked if he was tempted to hand Brogan 15 or 20 minutes, Gavin responded: “It’s part of the journey he’s on. There’s a lot of players who have been performing for us really well in training as well.”
Dublin remain in a strong position heading into the last four with Kerry and Mayo nowhere to be seen. They will face a Galway side low on momentum after being well beaten by Monaghan and couldn’t really have asked for a better scenario from here on.
Other players Gavin clearly has his eye on are Paul Flynn, scorer of 1-3 yesterday, and Colm Basquel.
Flynn loves to torment Roscommon and hit their first goal in the 21st minute before playing in Michael Darragh Macauley for their second before the break.
Having blasted 1-6 against Roscommon in the league last year, he could have easily outdone that but hit three wides and had a goal chance saved.
Dublin still led 2-12 to 0-7 and stretched that gap thanks to O’Gara’s two second-half goals. By the 60th minute, Dublin had all six of their subs rolled in which perhaps explained why Roscommon finished with six of the game’s last eight points.
Gary Patterson and Donie Smith also hit second-half Roscommon goals as they hit the largest tally against Dublin in this year’s Championship. But it was another bad day generally as stand in boss Ger Dowd — Kevin McStay was suspended — describing it as a “surreal” experience.
Scorers for Dublin: C. Costello (0-9, 2 frees, 1 45); E. O’Gara (2-2); P. Flynn (1-3); M.D. Macauley (1-0); K. Mc Manamon (0-3, 2 frees); C. McHugh (0-2); J. Small, P. Andrews, P. Small, M. Schutte and P. McMahon (0-1 each).
Scorers for Roscommon: D. Smith (1-3, 1 45); D. Murtagh (0-6, 2 frees); G. Patterson (1-0); P. Kelly and C. Lennon (0-2 each); C. Murtagh (1 free), C. Devaney and N. Kilroy (0-1 each).
DUBLIN: S. Cluxton (C); P. McMahon, C. O’Sullivan, M. Fitzsimons; E. Lowndes, D. Daly, J. McCaffrey; J. Small, M.D. Macauley; P. Flynn, K. McManamon, C. Basquel; C. Costello, E. O’Gara, P. Andrews.
Subs: C Mulally for O’Sullivan (h/t); J. McCarthy for McCaffrey (h/t); P. Small for Costello (47); M. Schutte for J. Small (47); C. McHugh for O’Gara (53); A. McGowan for Daly (60); B. Brogan for Schutte (62-66).
ROSCOMMON: J. Fetherston; D. Murray, P. Domican, N. McInerney; J. McManus, D. Pettit, R. Timothy; T. O’Rourke, E. Smith; N. Kilroy, C. Murtagh, C. Devaney (C); D. Murtagh, B. Stack, C. Lennon.
Subs: P. Kelly for Kilroy (h/t); G. Patterson for Timothy (h/t); I. Kilbride for Domican (49); D. Smith for Stack (49); C. Cregg for C. Murtagh (56); S. McDermott for McManus (66).
Referee: C. Reilly (Meath).