Dublin dominate dire affair

IF you separated Dublin’s achievement in winning through to their third consecutive Leinster SFC final from the actuality of qualifying in Croke Park yesterday, then you were left with a desperately disappointing game of football.

Just as well that the majority of the huge crowd were home supporters because there was little to enthuse about Offaly’s display other than their commitment to maintaining a stubborn challenge all the way to the finish.

Dublin triumphed as expected, much more easily than the scoreline indicates, and yet the goal which gave them a slightly more respectable margin was extremely fortuitous. It came, from the ever-industrious Alan Brogan, two minutes after the resumption, when a ball punched into the goalmouth was helped into the net by a defender. Given their superior scoring power — with Offaly over-dependant on Niall McNamee, who was largely anonymous in the first half — their followers could justifiably have expected another one or two to emphasise a dominance which looked evident from an early stage. And yet it never really looked like happening.

Starting with Bernard Brogan at wing-forward in place of Diarmuid Connolly (reportedly hurt in a work accident), Dublin had little difficulty in establishing an early advantage. They had five points scored by the 13th minute and were comfortably in control all over the field. In particular, they exerted a strong grip in defence (where Paul Griffin had little trouble in keeping McNamee quiet) and were dominating midfield to the extent that Offaly came under a lot of pressure even from their own kick-outs.

And, to add to their troubles, they lost corner-forward Thomas Deehan when he pulled up with a hamstring problem after only 17 minutes.

Interestingly, however, after Dublin added a sixth point in the 22nd minute (from Mark Vaughan, who lined out in the left corner), they weren’t to add to their total for the rest of the half.

There was some harmless jostling between a number of players — real ‘handbag’ stuff — although Dublin full-back Ross McConnell and direct opponent PJ Ward were yellow-carded after the umpires called in referee Michael Collins. It seemed to take the momentum out of Dublin’s play and, conversely, Offaly responded with a more vigorous challenge.

Niall Smith was prominent for a while at midfield, centre-back Scot Brady came more into the game (against Mossie Quinn, who started promisingly) and there was a greater involvement from Ciaran McManus and Pascal Kellaghan in the half-forward line. However, while it had the effect of raising their standard, poor finishing — reflected in their first four wides of the game in a five-minute period — limited progress considerably. Dublin’s finishing wasn’t the best either, with bad wides from Colin Moran and Vaughan in injury time bringing their total to seven.

Leading 0-6 to 0-2 at the break, Dublin had stretched their lead to seven points by the 45th minute, helped by Alan Brogan’s punched goal, which would have been disallowed had not full-back Joe Quinn been unlucky to make contact with the ball in a vain effort to catch it. And, Offaly had even more misfortune in the 47th minute when substitute Sean Ryan (who made a decent contribution after coming in for Deehan), hit a powerful shot against the underside of the crossbar.

For much of the last 20 minutes, there wasn’t an awful lot to get excited about, with the contest incapable of matching the passion or the intensity of Dublin’s two games with Meath. There were, however, some individual highlights, not least a terrific point from substitute Jason Sherlock and some delightful play from Alan Brogan. And, to give credit to the talented Niall McNamee (who finished with seven points), he was much more threatening when he got a better supply and improved his sharpness.

But, the plain truth is that the final whistle couldn’t come quickly enough.

Michael Collins did a good job overall, except that he didn’t always get it right when he allowed the game flow.

A minute’s silence was observed in memory of the late Michael Gregan, Treasurer of the Carlow County Board.

Scorers for Dublin: A. Brogan 1-2; M. Vaughan 0-3 (0-1 free, 0-1 ‘45); C. Keaney 0-3 (0-1 free); T. Quinn, C. Whelan, J. Sherlock and C. Moran 0-1 each.

Offaly: N. McNamee 0-7 (0-4 frees); N. Smith, P. McConway and S. Ryan 0-1 each.

DUBLIN: S. Cluxton; D. Henry, R. McConnell, P. Griffin; P. Casey, B. Cullen, B. Cahill; C. Whelan, S. Ryan; B. Brogan, T. Quinn, C. Moran (capt.); C. Keaney, A. Brogan, M. Vaughan.

Subs: J. Sherlock for B. Brogan (44); R. Cosgrove for Quinn (54); C. Goggins for Casey (61); D. Magee for Whelan (64); D. Lally for Moran (68).

OFFALY: P. Kelly; J. Quinn, J. Keane, C. Evans; P. McConway, S. Brady, K. Slattery; A. McNamee (capt.), N. Smith; C. McManus, P. Kellaghan, N. Coughlan; T. Deehan, PJ. Ward, N. McNamee.

Subs: S. Ryan for Deehan (inj., 17); R. Connor for Smith (46); J. Coughlan for Ward (50); W. Mulhall for Kellaghan (64); S. Sullivan for Slattery (70).

Referee: M. Collins (Cork).

Att: 77,623.

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