Dynamic Dubs heading in the right direction

Three weeks ago I watched Dublin labour to an unimpressive four-point win over Wexford.

Despite only winning by three yesterday, they looked a superior outfit even though they took their foot off the gas in the last ten minutes.

The Leinster champions are going in the right direction.

Their critics will say they were sloppy, hit too many wides and went long periods without scoring. However, I saw plenty to indicate they will definitely be there or thereabouts when the All-Ireland is down for decision.

They lorded the kickouts in the first half and Meath were working off a one to four ratio as regards gathering possession from restarts.

Cluxton’s ability to hit men in space has not diminished and Denis Bastick worked very hard in the engine room for Gilroy. Likewise, Michael Darragh Macauley has a terrific engine and will be a crucial player for Dublin if they are to retain Sam Maguire.

Another massive positive for their chances of ultimate success this year was the blistering return to form of Bernard Brogan. His 1-7 was taken at his ease. His composure in slipping in their first goal was impressive, however the leadership and maturity he displayed in hitting their late point and quelling a Royal rebellion was even more telling.

The two-goal salvo by Brogan and Bastick just before half-time turned the game on its head and that’s where Dublin showed their class and ability to hurt teams very quickly. They led 0-7 to 0-5, and inside a minute, it was stretched to eight and the chance of Meath catching them was slim.

The key question teams will be assessing now before the quarter-finals is why are Dublin so difficult to beat?

Firstly, they possess a lot of extremely mobile and fast defenders. I was very impressed with Michael Fitzsimons, Philip McMahon, James McCarthy and Kevin Nolan yesterday. They hunt in packs, are good in the tackle and are not naïve when a professional foul is needed.

Rory O’Carroll took a yellow and shrugged as it stopped a goalscoring opportunity. Croke Park is a very wide pitch and the pace, mobility and stamina this young Dublin defence possesses is priceless.

And with a very vocal and animated Cluxton behind them, they won’t be resting on their laurels.

The splendid work-rate and tracking of Bryan Cullen and Paul Flynn from wing-forward also means the Dublin defence is given plenty of support when it is needed.

The last word on Dublin is their bench.

Eoghan O’Gara, Paddy Andrews, Barry Cahill and Craig Dias all came on and made positive contributions. O’Gara in particular caught the eye with two points and the final pass for Brogan’s goal. They can also plan on being able to call on a – we assume – contrite Diarmuid Connolly for the next day.

If Alan Brogan is recovered from his groin injury, it will mean a full deck for Gilroy to pick from and they seem to be timing their run very nicely.

Meath will find it tough enough to bounce back and Laois have a lot of advantages going into next weekend, including an extra-day’s recovery. They are on the back of three victories and the stats are not good for beaten provincial finalists.

Some of the Meath wides, especially a few from Graham Reilly, were very poor and eat at a team’s confidence. ‘Banty’ will need to freshen things up a bit for next weekend and Jamie Queeney should start.

I was in Semple Stadium on Saturday and the Tipperary GAA public should get the finger out and row in behind Peter Creedon’s outfit.

They have won three on the trot now and they deserve some vocal support next weekend against Down. It was embarrassing from a Tipperary perspective last Saturday to hear chants of “Antrim, Antrim” ringing out at key stages of the game in their home ground. 2,563 walked through the turnstiles, but how many of them were Tipp supporters?

Guys like Alan Maloney (who shot six fine points), Brian Fox, Paul Fitzgerald, Robbie Kiely, George Hannigan and impressive substitute Brian Mulvihill deserve better. If they can pick up things a bit, improve on their shot selection, stay cool and get a few thousand cheering them on they could find themselves in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

So Tipp readers, put away the sliotar for one day and give the size five lads a shout.

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Saturday, June 12, 2021

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