Kildare 2-7 Dublin 2-20
Jim Gavin is a man of carefully measured words.
Despite preserving their 100% start to the league campaign with another storming Croke Park performance, the new Dublin manager typically pointed to the need to improve.
“I wouldn’t close off the loop on it as the complete performance or anything like that,” tempered Gavin.
Yet even the former U21 guru, who appears to be breathing new life into the Dublin seniors, conceded that they are virtually home and hosed now in the race for a semi-final place, with three games still to go.
A wonderful team performance that had in-form forward Bernard Brogan at the point of their incisive attack, shooting 1-5, was more than enough to claim victory over Kildare.
For the first half-hour or so it was hard to pick a winner. The sides were level four times and Kildare even took a two-point lead, 1-6 to 0-7, after 28 minutes.
But when Dublin scored four points in a row approaching half time they grabbed this top-of-the-table clash by the scruff of its neck.
And between the 29th and 50th minutes they shot a staggering 1-11 without reply that effectively killed off any chances Kildare had of maintaining their own winning streak.
The result leaves Dublin two points clear at the head of Division 1 and though they can technically still miss out on a knock-out place, that seems highly unlikely given their fine form.
“Yeah, that’s probably a fair assessment of it,” agreed Gavin. “But you can’t look beyond the next game either. We have Tyrone next weekend, followed by Down, who had a big win over Mayo, and then we are away to Donegal, the All-Ireland champions.
“Whether we’d got three wins or three losses before this game, we accept that it’s going to take a while for us as management to impart our ideas to them. It’s still all built around the first weekend in June.”
Still, the early signs are hugely encouraging. Just weeks after being beaten by Kildare in a highly charged O’Byrne Cup final encounter, the Dubs extracted full revenge.
Ironically, it was meant to be a home game for Kildare. They conceded that advantage — after a cash inducement — to help Dublin draw up an attractive Spring Series schedule of games at Croke Park.
Dublin are certainly benefiting from playing there, racking up tallies of 1-18, 2-14 and now 2-20 at the venue this year, though Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney refused to criticise the apparent advantage they enjoy.
“They are [benefiting] but listen, I know you’re looking at me to say that but, here’s the thing, whoever pays the piper — that’s the way the GAA works,” said McGeeney.
“I know they don’t like to think of it as a professional organisation but it’s whoever brings in the money and that’s what inter-county football is all about.”
McGeeney has enough to worry about simply trying to reel in Dublin on the playing field. As he conceded, Kildare didn’t capitalise enough on the wind at their backs in the first half and, generally, lacked presence around the middle third.
The Sky Blues had leaders all around the field. In defence, Johnny Cooper and Darren Daly impressed, though Jack McCaffrey was best of the lot, marauding forward and hitting 1-1 midway through the second half.
Ciarán Kilkenny and Diarmuid Connolly combined to play in McCaffrey for his 47th-minute goal. Brogan grabbed Dublin’s second 10 minutes from time after he out fielded Johnny Doyle and Hugh McGrillen to Paul Flynn’s long ball.
Scorers for Dublin: B Brogan 1-5 (4f), J McCaffrey 1-1, C Kilkenny 0-4, P Andrews 0-3, D Connolly & K McManamon 0-2 each, D Daly, P Flynn & P Ryan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildare: S Johnston 1-2 (1f), E Bolton 1-1, E O’Flaherty, J Doyle (1f), M Conway (1f) & B Flanagan 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Supple; J Cooper, R O’Carroll, K O’Brien; D Daly, C O’Sullivan, J McCaffrey; D O’Mahony, MD Macauley; P Flynn, C Kilkenny, C Reddin; P Andrews, D Connolly, B Brogan.
Subs: D Bastick for Macauley h/t, K McManamon (0-2) for Reddin h/t, B Cullen for Kilkenny 53, C Guckian for Daly 58, P Ryan (0-1) for O’Mahony 61.
KILDARE: S Connolly; O Lyons, M Foley, P Kelly; H McGrillen, E Doyle, E Bolton; P O’Neill, J Doyle; M Conway, E O’Flaherty, B Flanagan; S Johnston, T O’Connor, C McNally.
Subs: M O’Flaherty for Conway 27, H Lynch for McNally 39, Daniel Flynn for Flanagan 42, E Callaghan for O’Neill 50, R Sweeney for O’Connor 57.
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).
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