Gilroy gives thumbs up
IF January is for regrouping and the unearthing of a few dusty nuggets, Dublin can reflect on the halfway point of the month with something resembling satisfaction.
On Saturday night, UCD were vanquished (4-14 to 0-12) far more routinely than Carlow a week previous and Pat Gilroy can now be cautiously optimistic that the missing pieces of his spring puzzle will be filled without the sort of calamities which beset his team in their absence in the latter stages of last year's League final.
Four goals, against an albeit overwhelmed UCD defence, continued Dublin's habit in recent years for raising unseasonal numbers of January green flags and, notably, the cohesion with which they created scores lacked the customary winter glitches.
"We're just getting there now," the manager reflected. "Obviously we're only starting off getting back into it properly so our shooting and our handling -- which you would expect -- everything is not going to be perfect. But the effort and the application were great.
"We conceded a bit too much but we would be happy enough with it."
With at least two forward spots up for grabs in Dublin's mouth-watering League opener against Kerry in Croke Park on February 4 due to the expected absences of Messrs Brogan, a trio of inside forwards did their claims no harm under the Saturday night lights in Parnell Park.
Tomás Quinn, in particular, looked sharp and played with a distinct purpose before exiting stage left at half-time with a back injury.
By that point, he had amassed four points, two of which came from play and underlined his innate classiness when the posts come into view.
Míceál McCarthy, meanwhile, lasted another inter-county hour and embellished his reputation with four points from play (five in total), the most eye-catching of which arrived in the 56th minute when he soared into the sky and plucked the ball from a cast of waiting hopefuls before turning and nonchalantly stroking over the bar.
All night, though, he posed a menacing threat. "Míceál was with us last summer and he played very well for his club," noted Gilroy. "He's a good young fella and he applies himself well. It's important that you have that little bit of new blood coming in."
The returning Paddy Andrews was equally productive, if wholly less prolific. The St Brigid's man pitched in with a point and shot three uncharacteristic wides but given the calendar has just hit the half-way point of it's first page, his expert ball-winning and calm distribution will have pleased Gilroy more than anything else.
And then, there was Kevin McManamon. Gilroy, not widely noted for extravagantly doling out individual praise and even less inclined to allow players bask in past glories, went so far as to say "it's good to see him back". But the performance on the night of Dublin's other All-Ireland hero clearly bodes well.
His every touch lit a spark of excitement around Parnell Park and there was something inevitable about his goal -- Dublin's first -- in the 27th minute.
Collecting the ball 30 metres out to the left of the UCD goal, two Belfield defenders -- or as McManamon obviously them saw them, training cones -- stood between him and the net.
And when you have pace, strength, a low centre of gravity and a lethal sidestep, such obstacles are wholly surmountable. The St Jude's man jinked by both and roofed a shot past UCD 'keeper Michael McGinley to draw the heartiest cheer of the night.
He finished with 1-1 but set up another 1-3 and all night his direct running and, on a couple of occasions, neat passing, opened space for those around him.
If his goal was the highpoint of the night, Diarmuid Connolly's 54th-minute strike didn't lag too far behind.
Bryan Cullen, industrious throughout and a goalscorer himself by that stage, played the final ball before Connolly stuck the ball very literally into the corner of the net, but the goal owed more to the endeavor of fellow substitute Seán Murray, who competed the rout with a goal of his own in the 64th minute.
His introduction at wing-forward may have had all the hallmarks of wild customary winter experimentation but his energetic hussle was far too much for UCD to handle.
"You would love to have everyone available to you and everybody back around," noted Gilroy.
"But there is no point rushing people back from injuries. But it's great to be back training again."
UCD's only saving graces were the performances of big Donie Kingston and Roscommon forward Niall Kilroy, but Gilroy -- who, no doubt, would have been happy with the display of Darren Daly at corner-back -- pronounced himself satisfied with performances of the Dublin contingent, Rory O'Carroll, Colm Murphy and Craig Dias.
"It's no harm to playing games at the weekend but it's disruptive that the lads are off with the colleges," he offered. "It was good to see that our lads with UCD performed quite well. But I suppose it means loads of fellas are getting games."
A meeting with the unseasonally in-form Kildare next Sunday in Newbridge (2.0) awaits.