After Tyrone hosed Donegal by nine points in their June semi-final, this latest mismatch between teams who will also trade in the top flight of the league should raise an alarm about the polarisation about Gaelic football.
In fairness to the GAA, it wasn’t they who coined the phrase “Super 8” but on the basis of Saturday’s quarter-finals and Kerry’s win over Galway the previous weekend there is nothing special about the teams as a collective making the All-Ireland series.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise given there is an accepted top four, Tyrone having joined last year. Mayo? They remain there for now but more so on the basis that they are few willing to step up and replace them. Monaghan, for their size, have been punching above their weight but the digs they threw at Dublin on Saturday were powder-puff. It took them until the 30th minute to register their second point. By that stage, they were goosed.
Malachy O’Rourke made mistakes here. Conor McCarthy is that serious a talent he should have started. But he was right when, unprompted, he outlined the difficulties Monaghan have faced in trying to get past the quarter-finals – “The only thing I would say is that we’ve lost two to Tyrone, who are a quality team. We’ve lost two to Dublin, who have been the best team in the country. So it’s not as if we’re getting it and we’re losing to teams who are weaker than that. We’ve played very tough teams.”
For Jim Gavin, this was at least a sample of what is coming down the line against Tyrone. Unlike their Leinster run, they chose not to press up on Monaghan’s kick-outs. Monaghan retreated so much that it left Jonny Cooper and Cian O’Sullivan playing as sweepers, Cooper behind O’Sullivan. Against a stacked rearguard, Dublin recycled and recycled until they found openings or won frees. “The next day won’t be a traditional 15-on-15, that’s for sure,” said Gavin, “So we need to be controlled in those phases and I thought we did that when it was required in the first half. No doubt that’s what’s going to be required from us in three weeks’ time.”
A great opening point for Monaghan but Dublin have the ball in the net in the Senior Championship Quarter Final. pic.twitter.com/AJYPWbx6MC— eir Sport (@eirSport) August 5, 2017
Dean Rock’s free-taking was immense, sending over seven of them, five of them in the first half. Gavin agreed his precision was vital. “Particularly against a team who are going to foul so high. If we had skipped past that defender there probably would have been open space behind but Monaghan decided to foul at that particular point and Dean has been exceptional for us the last number of seasons and his dead-ball kicking is really good as is Con’s (O’Callaghan) and Bernard’s (Brogan), so we have a number of players who can step up.” Rock’s colleagues weren’t as accurate as him, kicking five wides and dropping three shots short in the first half. The game was theirs as early as the interval, where they led 0-11 to 0-3. O’Callaghan had been denied a goal by Rory Beggan but a Dublin goal came in the 40th minute when Paddy Andrews squared the ball for Rock to palm home.
What was so damning for Monaghan was not just their failure to cut out Brian Fenton’s long free in, Colin Walshe failing to catch it, but the fact Dublin had attempted a similiar ploy just seconds earlier and Monaghan were caught napping only for Conor Lane to call back the play to yellow card Shane Carey. Beggan also had to be sharp to block Bernard Brogan in the 52nd minute.
Monaghan had goal chances too, Jack McCarron taking a wrong option to shoot when goal machine Fintan Kelly was free to his left and Owen Duffy then being denied late on by Stephen Cluxton, on his record-breaking 89th championship appearance. But the deed had already been done and while Gavin was critical of his side’s second half performance they could be forgiven. A lot of the full house crowd had left by the start of the second half and the indifference was infectious.
To accommodate the return of Cooper, Paul Flynn and Michael Darragh Macauley to the match-day panel, Denis Bastick, Mark Schutte and Ciaran Reddin had all made way. Diarmuid Connolly should come back in for Tyrone and Cormac Costello is fit again. Kevin McManamon saw no action on Saturday. Gavin’s bounty of riches knows little bounds. “One of their strongest characteristics is that sense of collective,” remarked Gavin. “They realise that they are about the sum of their parts. Of course, they all want game-time and as a management team we understand that but the players who don’t start are willing to come on and play whatever part they are asked to play.
“There are players who didn’t get game-time today that will be disappointed but I know when we go back on the park next week they’ll be determined as ever to represent this Dublin jersey as best they can.”
That best may not be good enough for Dublin but it would be for everyone else, particularly Monaghan. As they analyse this reverse in the cold light of day, that reality of disparity won’t be lost on them.
D. Rock (1-8, 0-7 frees, 1 45); P. Andrews, P. Mannion (0-3 each); J. McCaffrey, C. O’Callaghan, J. McCarthy, E. O’Gara, P. Flynn (0-1 each).
C. McManus (0-4, 3 frees); C. McCarthy (0-3); C. Walshe, K. O’Connell, R. Beggan (free), D. Hughes, R. McAnespie (0-1 each).
S. Cluxton (c) 7; M. Fitzsimons 7, P. McMahon 7; J. Cooper 6; J. Small 7, C. O’Sullivan 7, J. McCaffrey 8; B. Fenton 8, J. McCarthy 7; E. Lowndes 6, C. O’Callaghan 6, C. Kilkenny 7; P. Mannion 8, P. Andrews 8, D. Rock 8.
B. Brogan 6 for E. Lowndes (42); D. Daly 6 for J. Small, P. Flynn 6 for J. McCarthy (52); E. O’Gara 6 for P. Andrews (54); M.D. Macauley 6 for C. Kilkenny (58); D. Byrne 6 for J. Cooper (61).
R. Beggan 7; D. Wylie 6, F. Kelly 7, R, Wylie 5; S. Carey 6; C. Walshe (c) 6, K. Duffy 6, K. O’Connell 7; K. Hughes 6, D. Hughes 6; R. McAnespie 7, D. Ward 6; J. McCarron 7, C. McManus 6.
C. McCarthy 8 for G. Doogan (35+1); O. Duffy 7 for D. Ward (h-t); D. Mone 6 for K. O’Connell, V. Corey 6 for R. Wylie (both 44); D. Malone 6 for S. Carey (56); N. McAdam 6 for D. Hughes (63).
C. Lane (Cork).