O’Rourke: Dubs miles ahead of the rest

Pat Gilroy yesterday found himself praising another of his forwards for the second week running after Diarmuid Connolly blitzed Armagh for 3-3 in an emphatic Dublin win at Croke Park.

Following Eoghan O’Gara’s 1-5 display against Laois in which Connolly notched 0-5, the St Vincent’s man’s clinical finishing was integral to dispatching the admittedly meek challenge presented by Paddy O’Rourke’s men in front of the 24,886 crowd.

Including the aborted game against Mayo where he was unmarkable in those 35 minutes, Connolly has been scintillating in his last three games.

It was something which Gilroy wasn’t going to try and gloss over.

“One of the challenges for Diarmuid coming into this year — he had a couple of very good games last year — I think is getting the consistency into his game. To be fair to him, he started the Mayo game particularly well and played well the last day and today. That’s the challenge for him to keep that going.

“His talent is undoubted. We can all see that for ourselves but it’s important that he gets that consistency and he’s really trying hard at it.

That Connolly wasn’t the pick of Dublin players was a testament to just how good they were. Michael Darragh Macauley’s dynamism throughout was staggering and he was the breaking of the Armagh midfield with both of their starters being benched by half-time.

Dublin’s two goals inside the first nine minutes set the tone for the game with Connolly expertly finding the bottom corner for the first and then Tomás Quinn availing of a wayward Declan McKenna pass to coolly find the net.

Six points down at that stage, things didn’t get any better for Armagh. After beating Kerry and drawing with Cork, O’Rourke said Dublin were “miles ahead of anything we have met, miles ahead”.

He continued: “No matter what way we started we weren’t going to win the game. I think Dublin just were much better than us, by a good bit.

“In reality, if we really look at it, while they scored four goals they could have scored more. No doubt they could have scored more. It was a very difficult night for us.

“I don’t believe Dublin is that good and Armagh is that bad but there is an in between somewhere. However, they are definitely a much better side than what Armagh are at the moment. We have a lot of work to do.”

Shell-shocked by the start, the game was up for Armagh as early as the 28th minute when Connolly delightfully side-footed in his second goal after a Macauley interception.

It put 11 points between the sides and that’s how the half finished with Dublin enjoying a 3-7 to 0-5 lead. The margin was cut to nine in the 42nd minute when Brian Mallon capped off a brief purple patch for Armagh.

Caolan Rafferty’s 49th minute goal managed to narrow the deficit to seven but their return for the remainder of the game was two Brian Mallon frees.

Dublin, meanwhile, scored 1-4 without reply, Connolly adding his third goal after some fine interplay in the 60th minute. Substitute John Cooper, only drafted into the panel, picked off a brace of points in the dying minutes.

The only blip for Dublin was Philly McMahon failing to finish the game after picking up a red card for a second cautionable offence, in turn becoming Dublin’s fifth notable disciplinary issue in as many games.

“That was disappointing,” said Gilroy. “It looked like a clumsy challenge, it looked like he was going for the ball to block it and he did follow through on to the guy so to the letter of the law it probably was a yellow card so it is disappointing.

“I thought our discipline was excellent up to that. We got a few heavy challenges and just got on with it without reaction.

“It’s the league, he gets two yellow card I don’t think he gets any suspension. It’s something for us to continuously harp on about.”

Scorers for Dublin: D Connolly 3-3 (2fs), T Quinn 1-3 (1 45), E O’Gara 0-3, P Flynn, J Cooper 0-2 each, MD Macauley, A Brogan, J McCarthy, E Fennell 0-1 each.

Scorers for Armagh: A Forker (3fs) 0-4, C Rafferty 1-0, B Mallon (2fs) 0-3, G McParland 0-2, C Watters 0-1 each.

DUBLIN: M Savage; D Daly, R O’Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, G Brennan, C Dias; MD Macauley, E Fennell; P Flynn, A Brogan, P Brogan; D Connolly, E O’Gara, T Quinn.

Subs for Dublin: P Andrews for A Brogan (49), D Byrne for P Brogan (57), S Murray for Macauley (60), J Cooper for McCarthy (62), C Murphy for Fennell (66).

Red card: McMahon (second yellow, 70).

ARMAGH: P McEvoy; A Mallon, B Donaghy, D McKenna; P Duffy, C McKeever, K Dyas; J Lavery, J Kingham; A Forker, M Mackin, C Rafferty; C Watters; A Duffy, B Mallon.

Subs for Armagh: G McParland for Lavery (16), BJ Padden for Kingham (33), F Moriarty for Dyas (ht), S Campbell for Forker (47), R Rafferty for Watters (57).

Referee: Michael Collins (Cork).

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