Dublin finally get challenge back on track
Dublin 2-28 Laois 1-15
Dublin scuttle onwards.
Ger Cunningham didn't know who his team would face next Saturday in the second round of qualifiers when he spoke to us on Saturday evening but it didn't really matter a whole pile either.
Dublin were now in exalted company, the fourth name in a pot containing the teams ranked one, two and three in last year's Championship.
"We're going into a different League next weekend," he said, comfortable that no conceivable draw could come back to make a liar of the Dublin manager.
Earlier, he watched his team change through the gears in what was a helpful sort of evening.
A toe dip in the shallow end of Championship hurling before submerging themselves completely next Saturday.
You could argue with some justification that Dublin were due a helping of luck and there was no doubting that a home draw against a chronically depleted Laois team on Saturday evening in Parnell Park was exactly that.
But it was only fair to observe that Dublin helped themselves too.
That for all the pain of relegation and a stinker of a performance against Galway, their yearning to be competitive again hadn't abated.
"These lads were very disappointed," Cunningham observed.
"After Galway, we just….we were well beaten on the day.
"Hopefully the bit of hurt was there in our own performance. How they played that day was felt in the rebound today.
"We've trained hard. We had a couple of challenge matches that went well. And we knew coming into tonight we were in a good place."
Nobody else was quite sure.
It's been a while since Dublin got anything resembling a decent draw - or even home advantage for that matter - in a match of real significance.
On Saturday, they warmed to the task and by the end, they had located confidence, cohesion and form again.
"The result was the most important thing tonight," Cunningham confirmed.
"Getting to the second qualifier game - that was the purpose, that was the aim tonight.
"The performance…you always look for a performance and you wouldn't have got a win without the performance."
It wasn't quite the game of two halves but each period contrasted the other.
Dublin lumbered to a one-point half-time lead but their mitigation was that they had to hurl into the stiffest wind to sweep Parnell Park in months.
Their crime was in being lax in their marking, allowing Laois midfielder Paddy Purcell to score four long-ran ge points from play in the first seven minutes and five in total by half-time.
Laois' plan to was to shoot from long-range and largely, it worked.
Dublin's play was much slicker though and they had midfields of sharp industry in Niall McMorrow and Ben Quinn.
Quinn, in particular, had his finest game for Dublin but given there were a handful of players who could make the same claim, it's probably pertinent to suspend judgement for another week at least.
Still, you couldn't but be impressed by Dublin's two debutants.
Fionn Ó Riain Broin made two excellent first-half blocks and his touch was like velcro all throughout.
Cian O'Sullivan had the dash of a young Dotsy O'Callaghan about him up front and after calibrating his sights, scored three points from play.
"I'm not going into individuals," Cunningham insisted, though there must be satisfaction in having your faith so quickly repaid.
"All over, I thought our hurling was very good. I just thought as a team performance, it worked out."
In the second-half, Dublin's more experienced attackers took over.
Ryan O'Dwyer grafted and battled and made things for others.
David Treacy went to town, shooting nine points and winning oodles of ball.
Eamonn Dillon, having passed up a good goal chance in the first half, then blasted one in the second from a long delivery from Ó Riain Broin, the score that broke Laois entirely.
"Yeah, we were saying at half-time it was good getting points and ticking them over - that's great. But when you can get a goal like that, it can really lift our team and really damage the opposition," Cunningham reflected.
"We had a couple of other opportunities where we were going for goal that we could have tapped over the bar."
Cunningham still has decisions to make, in particular where to post Liam Rushe.
The Dublin captain battled hard at centre-forward but didn't seem entirely comfortable there either.
"It's something we've looked at in the last couple of weeks to see if it's an option. Liam is one of those that will play anywhere in a Dublin jersey.
"It doesn't matter to him once he can contribute in some shape or form.
"We've been trying it the last couple of weeks in training. I thought he worked fierce hard tonight. He got on a lot of ball."
From the 42nd minute, Dublin hit 1-14 without reply, Dillon's second goal bringing his personal tally to 2-4 and by the time the real Dotsy O'Callaghan came on and scored two points, players were hurling for places in the team that attempts to take a giant step up next Saturday.
"We were looking to bounce back straight away," Cunningham admitted.
"And once we got the home draw here in Parnell, we felt we had every chance.
"Now we're going into a different League next weekend."