Still, Jim Gavin was quick to play down just how direct his Dublin team were in the comfortable win over Carlow in the O’Byrne Cup yesterday.
Making the ball work over heavy sod is logical and it certainly paid dividends for the visitors especially in the first half when they led by seven points after 22 minutes. The long ball tactic worked a treat for young Robert McCarthy who, like his namesake Micheál on the same stage and Dr Cullen Park venue last year, impressed.
He was on hand to palm the ball to the net for Dublin’s second goal seven minutes into the second half after he had looked comfortable under the dropping ball before the interval.
Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McManamon were also only too happy to get high supply with the former availing of a lengthy Darren Daly kick-pass, which he fetched impressively and soloed to find the net despite being fouled in the 22nd minute.
“It is one of the gameplays we are looking at,” said Gavin of the long ball style. “We will have a menu of them, we’ll mix it up as we go through the O’Byrne Cup and the league. We got some good return from it.”
McCarthy was the pick of the newcomers although in defence Eric Lowndes and Paddy Quinn were solid and former Dublin hurler, Tomás Brady, knitted things together well at centre-back.
“There is no individual that would have jumped out at me, just collectively at times they did well,” remarked Gavin. “They are getting used to each other, there are a lot of young faces. They are getting used to probably a different way of playing defensively. I’m satisfied with getting the result anyway.”
Carlow, credit to them, responded well to Dublin’s first two goals. Connolly’s opener was followed by three points without reply from Brian Murphy and they went in 1-9 to 0-8 at the break.
Darragh Foley booted over two frees in the wake of McCarthy’s goal to reduce Carlow’s arrears to five but Dublin bagged a third when a Bernard Brogan free dropped short and the ball was broken to Quinn to finish with aplomb.
Connolly tagged on a point to stretch Dublin’s lead to nine with just over 20 minutes remaining and the game was effectively up for Carlow.
Although the quicker-than-expected return to action of Brendan Murphy, who came on, was a welcome one for the home team after he had lacerated his kidney in a game with the Army before Christmas.
“Brendan’s a small bit ahead of schedule,” said Carlow manager Anthony Rainbow. “Originally, it was probably February or March, but he came training early and responded well to treatment.”
Carlow, for their toil, managed a goal through Daniel St Ledger when Murphy’s brother Brian broke down a ball to him. But they were outclassed for the lion’s share of the game by a Dublin side who could afford to lose captain Michael Darragh Macauley who retired with a dead leg midway through the first half.
Both Dublin and Carlow are back in action again on Wednesday against DCU and Wicklow respectively.
They round off their week-long Group B campaigns next Sunday and Gavin admits the hectic schedule isn’t ideal especially with players either club-tied, college-tied or studying for exams.
“We have 12-14 guys with colleges, Emmet Ó Conghaile and Paul Hudson have exams so we gave them the day off and then we have the Ballymun contingent as well.”
Scorers for Dublin: R McCarthy, D Connolly 1-2 each; B Brogan 0-4 (3 frees); P Quinn 1-0; P Andrews 0-2; K McManamon, D O’Mahony, G Sweeney 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow: Brian Murphy (2 frees), D Foley (all frees) 0-4 each; D St Ledger 1-1; E Ruth 0-2; Brendan Murphy 0-1 each.
CARLOW: T O’Reilly; B Kavanagh, S Mernagh, BJ Molloy; M Doyle, D Hayden, T Bolger; D Foley, S Redmond; A Kelly, C Murphy, E Ruth; Brian Murphy, D St Ledger, R Walker.
Subs for Carlow: C Moran for C Murphy (32); Brendan Murphy for Kelly (50); K Nolan for M Doyle (59); K Byrne for Molloy (66); P Reid for Walker (inj 67).
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; D Daly, G Brennan, D Byrne; E Lowndes, T Brady, C O’Sullivan; D O’Mahony, MD Macauley; P Quinn, P Andrews, B Brogan; R McCarthy, D Connolly, K McManamon.
Subs for Dublin: D Bastick for Macauley (inj 18); S Carthy for McManamon; J McCaffrey for Byrne (both h-t); G Sweeney for O’Mahony (55); E Fanning for Quinn (63).
Referee: Fergal Barry (Kildare)