Gilroy happy with away day form

WITH Cork and Kerry to visit Croke Park this month, we are going to hear a lot about Dublin’s ‘spring series’ but it’s their away form that marks Pat Gilroy’s side out as one of football’s coming forces.

Saturday night’s defeat of Armagh at the superbly-renovated Athletic Grounds made it four from five on the road in the National League in the last 12 months from a team that struggled beyond Newland’s Cross for so long.

Citadels in Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone and Armagh have now all been sacked by the boys in blue in recent times and, just as he did last year, Gilroy admitted that such raiding parties are worth far more than the mere two points.

“It’s good to win away. People have said it before, you have an advantage in being together when you are away on the road. You have to be happy with it. I don’t know if we are going places yet. It is still only February.”

Maybe, but forget the time of year because Dublin did enough in this first league tie to suggest that they have already started building on the good work of last season and Bernard Brogan’s night was evidence of that.

Brogan might have top-scored, yet again, with a tally of 1-3 but he was quiet for long spells when it fell instead to colleagues such as Diarmuid Connolly, Kevin McManamon and Tomas Quinn to get things done up front.

Dublin will need similar depth to their attacking arsenal come the summer when it is hoped that Alan Brogan will be back to his best and Eoghan O’Gara will have knocked off some of his rougher edges.

The report card for the defence was more mixed.

With Rory and Ross O’Carroll, Cian O’Sullivan and Ger Brennan all absent, there was a pair of vacancies up the spine of the back six for which youthful apprentices Sean Murray and James McCarthy auditioned.

Gilroy declared himself delighted with Murray though the full-back struggled at times on the excellent Gareth Swift, who finished the game with four points, while McCarthy fared better on former Mayo man Billy Joe Padden.

“One of the advantages we had is that the two lads played a little bit for the U21s in those roles last year,” Gilroy said, “so they had a bit of an understanding and that was helpful, but you just have to deal with it.”

That you do.

Both counties were without players due to injury and the club commitments of Kilmacud Crokes and Crossmaglen, Gilroy unable to call on no less than 20 players who had worn the sky blue last season.

“A lot of the injuries were legacy ones from the Championship last season and fellas played club championship with them,” he admitted. “We’re nearly there and a good few of them are beginning to stand up now at this stage.”

Such a state of affairs only adds to the worth of this win.

Twice Dublin gave their hosts the slip only to be hauled back to parity before Bernard Brogan’s 58th minute goal gave them the impetus to pull clear in a thrilling game.

Played with a near championship intensity at times, it inevitably lacked a little in execution. Armagh made more of the basic mistakes and eight of Dublin’s scores were sourced from the Ulster’s side’s own foibles.

One of those came after only four minutes when a loose pass from Brendan Donaghy resulted in a goal from Connolly and it was more poor defending that allowed Brogan to slap the ball into the net for the second.

Armagh drew level twice in between times, but they could only manage the one goal through Charlie Vernon after 20 minutes despite subsequent chances for Swift and the excellent Stevie McDonnell.

O’Rourke rued such wastage afterwards but he was only echoing a criticism Gilroy had of his own boys and the reality is that Dublin won this game because they possessed the know-how and the tools to do so.

It was a useful lesson for the Ulster men on their return to the top tier.

“That’s a real step up with some of the hitting and the pace in it,” O’Rourke said. “I don’t know what it was like to watch in the stand for the neutral but I’m sure it was an exciting game. It is like a stimulator.”

It sure was and expect the crowds to flock to Croke Park if the Dubs can keep this up. In fact, what price an extra date for them in HQ for the final itself?

Scorers for Armagh: G Swift (0-4); S McDonnell (0-4, 2 frees); C Vernon (1-1); BJ Padden (0-1), M O’Rourke (0-1).

Scorers for Dublin: B Brogan (1-3); D Connolly (1-1); T Quinn (0-2, 1 ‘45’); K McManamon (0-2); D Lally (0-1); MD Macauley (0-1); E O’Gara (0-1); P Flynn (0-1).

Dublin: S Cluxton; A Hubbard, S Murray, M Fitzimons; D Lally, J McCarthy, P Casey; MD Macauley, D Bastick; B Cullen, K McManamon, D Connolly; T Quinn, E O'Gara, B Brogan.

Subs: P Flynn for Quinn, B Cahill for Bastick, A Brogan for Connolly, P Andrews for O'Gara, D Kelly for B Brogan

Armagh: P McEvoy; V Martin, B Donaghy, A Mallon; K Dyas, C McKeever, P Duffy; K Toner, C Vernon; M Mackin, BJ Padden, R Grugan; B Mallon, G Swift, S McDonnell.

Subs: F Moriarty for Martin, A Duffy for Mackin, M O'Rourke for B Mallon, C Clarke for Padden, C Watters for Grugan

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).

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