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Monday 5 December 2016

Ciaran Whelan: Another stroll in the park for Dublin against weak Lilies

28 Jun 2015; Michael Darragh MacAuley, Dublin, in action against Padraig O'Neill, Kildare. Leinster Senior Football championship semi-final, Dublin v Kildare. Croke Park, Dublin, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
28 Jun 2015; Michael Darragh MacAuley, Dublin, in action against Padraig O'Neill, Kildare. Leinster Senior Football championship semi-final, Dublin v Kildare. Croke Park, Dublin, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

Events in Croke Park yesterday confirmed most people's predictions beforehand with Dublin proving far too strong for Kildare with the match effectively over as a contest by half-time.

Some observers felt that with Kildare on a hiding to nothing, that they could go out and express themselves with nothing to lose but sadly, they only showed the right aptitude and application when the result was already settled with Dublin proving far too strong in almost all aspects of the game.

The Dubs just had too much power, pace, flair and individual talent in reserve and I'm not sure Kildare helped themselves with the curious tactics that they adopted in the first-half.

Granted, Kildare would not have wanted to concede an early goal so they protected their goal with an extra defender but that only allowed Ciarán Kilkenny to wreak havoc in the free role as he impressed in kicking four first-half points from play.

Kilkenny's display was one of many encouraging personal performances from Dublin with Diarmuid Connolly also showing well, both at full-forward and also when brought out the field.

The skill he showed when scoring his first point was a joy to watch and his continued well-being is crucial when Dublin face tougher challenges ahead later this summer.

huge element

Competition for places is obviously a huge element in Dublin's favour as all players who start know they need to maintain the highest standards to retain their places so in that regard, the contribution of Alan Brogan when introduced was another positive for Jim Gavin and his selectors.

Of course, the game was already won when Brogan was introduced but he looked sharp in what he did and his ability to pick out a man or pick off a score adds another dimension to the Dublin attack.

Another positive from the management perspective was that Dublin didn't concede a goal over the seventy minutes and they yielded very few goal chances with the full-back line of Jonny Cooper, Rory O'Carroll and Philly McMahon looking very assured.

Cooper was exceptional, especially in the first half and Kildare were unable or unwilling to deal with McMahon's sorties into enemy territory.

Jason Ryan suggested after the match that there was a degree of solace to be taken from Kildare's relatively improved display after the break, where they showed a greater degree of energy and desire.

Why they waited so long to do that and not from the first whistle is open to debate but they certainly look to get in Dublin's faces after the break.

Dublin kept their discipline reasonably well in the face of some provocation but they need to ensure that they show a similar level of restraint as the championship evolves.

positivity

Of course, despite all the positivity attached to yesterday's performance, the fact is that Dublin, once again, arrive at a provincial final having not being tested and as I have stressed on many occasions, that is not the healthiest way in which to arrive at the All-Ireland series.

When you assess the game in the cold light of day, it proved a mismatch between the winners of the Division 1 National Football League and a team that will play in Division 3 next year.

I felt that the 3-16 that Kildare registered in the replay win against Laois was not a true reflection of their attacking abilities and that their forwards would not have enough power to trouble Dublin.

So it proved with some of the substitutions not inspiring confidence that they can show sufficient nerve and ability to enjoy a prolonged run through the qualifiers.

As for Dublin, it was a case of job done and heads down again for the Leinster Final on Sunday week with valuable game time for recent absentees Rory O'Carroll and Michael Darragh Macauley a bonus in that regard.

Finally, it would be amiss of me not to mention the wonderful display by Westmeath in overcoming their long-time nemesis in Meath earlier in the day.

To call Westmeath's display in the first half as woeful would be kind to them but they were a team transformed in the second half as Meath wilted in front of our eyes.

Westmeath were phenomenal after the break as Meath imploded and it was great to see such joy at the final whistle as they advanced to meet the Dubs with an excellent team performance.

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