Bernard Brogan held the whip hand on Saturday at Croke Park as his excellent 71st minute score separated the sides when the points were all tallied up.
Cork are next up for the Dubs next Saturday though with six points already on the board, unbeaten Dublin are on the cusp of the knockout stages at this early stage.
Manager Gavin feels they still have considerable room for improvement though after watching his side slip five points behind early on and then cough up a five-point advantage in the second-half.
They also had no answer over the 70 or so minutes to the excellence of Conor McManus, who finished with 12 points and underlined the fact if he was from Dublin himself, he’d be a GAA super star by now.
“To get the two points is always pleasing but performance wise we wouldn’t be happy with that,” said Gavin. “Monaghan started well in the first-half and built up a commanding lead so I thought our boys figured it out eventually though whether we deserved to be one point up at half-time, I don’t know. I’d say that wasn’t a reflection of how Monaghan had played.
“The third quarter we started well and built up a lead and got some great scores but again we let them back into it. I thought the boys showed great resolve in the last 10 minutes to come away with the two points. But seven wides, four dropped short, a lot of turnovers, that wouldn’t be good enough for later on this season. But for the last weekend in February we’d be happy with the points.”
It was a tough night for David Byrne, who renewed acquaintances with McManus in front of 17,080. Byrne was full-back for Dublin in the All-Ireland U-21 winning side of 2014 and has been billed as a potential replacement for Rory O’Carroll.
But for the second time in a matter of months he was scorched by McManus at Croke Park. In last year’s league semi-final, McManus scored six points while being marked by Byrne who was eventually subbed off.
The St Olaf’s defender lasted the whole game this time and won a couple of battles but was well beaten.
“Conor McManus is one of the outstanding forwards of the modern generation of players,” said Gavin. “You need to understand he will score in games. These top quality forwards, they always do. But I thought David Byrne played well. He played last weekend in the Sigerson and has good form both with his club and his college and with Dublin, so long may that continue.”
The win preserves Dublin’s 100% start to the campaign having already beaten Kerry and Mayo. Gavin rejected the suggestion he can experiment from here with a top four position highly likely now for the four-in-a-row chasing side.
He said he has a larger plan at play to blood rookie players in certain games and ease experienced performers back at different times.
All Star Brogan came on in the second-half for his first action of 2016 and clearly hasn’t lost any of his sparkle. It was Paul Flynn’s first start too while All Star midfielder Brian Fenton came on after a shoulder procedure in the close season.
“We’ve been patient with all the players,” said Gavin. “We always have a plan for them to come back but it’s really when they’re ready, they put their hand up and say they’re ready. It’s just a matter of gradually introducing them, building up their match fitness.”
The only negative was confirmation Sigerson Cup winners Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey won’t be back for some time. As for Ulster champions Monaghan, their unbeaten league run is over but they can bounce back against Mayo.
“Dublin are the benchmark for everyone,” said Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke. “Their record in the past few years has been phenomenal. We just want to measure ourselves against them. There were times when we stood up to them and times when their quality shone through. They are not All-Ireland champions for nothing. It was a real battle out there, we’ll learn a lot from it and move on.”
D Rock (0-7, 6 frees), D Connolly (1-0, pen), P McMahon, C Costello (0-2), E O Conghaile, P Flynn and B Brogan (0-1 each).
C McManus (0-12, nine frees), K Hughes (0-2), O Duffy and K Duffy (0-1 each).
S Carthy (Naomh Mearnog) for Bastick (h/t), B Brogan for Flynn (42-53), J Cooper for Fitzsimons (53), Brogan for Brady (54), P Ryan for Rock (58), B Fenton for O’Conghaile (61), S Carthy (St Vincent’s) for Connolly (66). Ryan (72, B/C).
D Mone for K Hughes (30), C Boyle for R Wylie (h/t), R McAnespie for Duffy (47), C McCarthy for Malone (56), D McKenna for Carey (66).
P Hughes (Armagh).