Tactics nerds will warm to Waterford boss Derek McGrath’s diagnosis, that Dublin mirrored the home side’s well-known deep-lying template to good effect. The visitors also took advantage of some lax discipline on Waterford’s part, David Treacy hitting nine points from frees for Dublin as they eased to victory, and it was no surprise their manager Ger Cunningham was in good form afterwards.
“Yeah, very happy to come to Walsh Park and get a victory. Someone said before the match, it’s 23 months since Waterford were beaten down here and it was Dublin that did it two years ago as well.
“So, that was a nice challenge for us to come down here. A very competitive league, as we were talking about, a very tough game.
“The lads showed great composure and good intelligence on the ball. Not an easy place to come so we’re absolutely delighted to put another game back to back, which was the challenge.”
Composure was the key for Dublin. Seeking to build on their free-scoring win over Cork last week, they were deliberate in working the ball out from the back. Waterford turned them over in the process more than once but they trusted each other and persisted, with the eventual reward of victory.
The men in sky blue also had a potent outlet up front, the in-form Eamon Dillon, even if they didn’t get the ball to him as often as they might have.
Waterford began well with three quick points but Tom Devine, who had a huge impact last weekend against Tipperary, was isolated all too often yesterday, battling two and sometimes three Dublin backs.
That was the game in a nutshell - Waterford unable to get scores from their lone ranger up front, while Dillon finished with four points from play and looked dangerous every time the ball came near him. His first-half scores kept Dublin just one point behind their opponents at the break, 0-7 to 0-8.
“They’re inspirational scores,” said Cunningham of his full-forward.
“It’s hard enough to get the ball up there. It inspires a team really when he gets a ball up that far and puts it over the bar.
“They were great scores but we kind of fell away after we got a couple of those. We put ourselves in a good position before half-time but kind of lost our way and half-time probably came at a good time. It just gave us a chance to recover and put ourselves back in the frame.”
They did more than that, hitting eight points to Waterford’s three in the third quarter to forge a winning lead. The Deise were forced to realign, and not very successfully at that.
“When we went conventional with about 15 minutes to go our corner-forwards stayed inside almost too much,” said Waterford manager McGrath.
“While Dublin were implementing the same game plan as we had, with David Treacy coming back from where he was out on the wing.
“We looked more vulnerable at the back than we had in some time, but we have absolutely zero excuses, Dublin were very good, and they are a very good team.”
Waterford needed a goal but couldn’t work an opening - a green flag looked more likely at the other end, through the hardworking Dillon. Five points didn’t flatter Dublin, but Waterford took some positives from the encounter.
“We got a game into Tadhg (de Burca) for the first time since December and we lobbed him into it on the basis that he had no game time whatsoever,” said McGrath.
“I think we saw too the youth of our team when things aren’t going entirely well for us. It can surface. That’s something we’ll have to work on as well.
“I’ve been saying that we’ve got a young team, and we do, but we’ll have to work on that - on digging in, if you like.”
Dublin can road-test their approach in the toughest arena next weekend.
“I suppose we’ll reflect on today and then look forward to going to Nowlan Park, that’s the biggest challenge of all,” said Cunningham.
“We saw what they were capable of last night in the last five minutes. So that’s another huge challenge but we’ll reflect and see what we’ll do.”
P Curran (0-1 65, 0-5 frees)(0-7); A Gleeson (0-2 frees)(0-3); J Barron, S Bennett, J Dillon, C Dunford (0-1 each)
D Treacy (0-9 frees); E Dillon (0-4); D O’Connell, J McCaffrey, N McMorrow, S McGrath, S. Treacy, C Crummy (0-1 each).
S O’Keeffe, S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors, P Mahony, T de Burca, K Moran (c), J Barron, A Gleeson, M Walsh, S Bennett, J Dillon, P Curran, T Devine, C Dunford.
M Shanahan for Dillon (blood 46-9); M Shanahan for Devine (50); M Kearney for Dunford (61); S O’Sullivan for Bennett and T Ryan for Gleeson (68).
C Dooley, E O’Donnell, C O’Callaghan, O Gough, S Barrett, L Rushe ( c), J McCaffrey, D O’Connell, D Plunkett, C Crummy, N McMorrow, E Dillon, D O’Callaghan, D Treacy, F McGibb.
S Treacy for F McGibb (53); S McGrath for Barrett (60); C Cronin for O’Connell (68)
P O’Dwyer (Carlow).