blues for dubs CUBS
CAVAN 2-12 DUBLIN 0-8
THERE was an ice-cream van in the ground. But business was slack on Sunday night.
Rain fell from grey clouds. You wouldn't have thought it was late July.
The Gerry Reilly U16 Football final threw in at 7.30. The floodlights came on ten minutes later.
The sod was greasy. The ball tested the quality of the gloves. Millbrook, Oldcastle is a tidy venue. It has a stand. It was packed.
The neat programme sold out. There was an electronic scoreboard.
The game was played amid rural splendour. The lush green fields of the Royal County.
In one spot, the cows quietly enjoyed their supper as they took in The Sunday Game.
And it was Cavan who provided the classical music. They were simply superb.
They had pace and power. Their high fielding was a delight. Their foot passes came with a ruler. They are such sweet strikers of the ball.
And they worked and worked till the cows came home.
The Cavan support looking on were entitled to dream. If this group can stay together, Ulster titles, and more, could be returning to Kingspan Breffni Park.
"Cavan are an exceptional side," remarked Dublin manager, Tom Gray. "They were physically very strong in all areas of the pitch.
"Our lads are a very dedicated group, but we just didn't perform as well as we could have done. We were beaten by the better team on the night."
Cavan's left corner-back, Ryan Coyle, was selected as the Millbrook Food Market Man-of-the-Match.
There was a queue of contenders stretching down the road to Virginia.
You won't see a better centre half-back than Cormac Timoney. Ronan Patterson was majestic at midfield. He often plucked the ball from underneath his own bar.
The Cavan captain was centre half-forward, Cian Madden, whose quick feet and incisive running caused the Dubs a box of problems.
Cavan's left corner-forward, Oisín Pierson, had a terrific match. He has a left peg that could dial long distance Pennsylvania 6,5000.
Cavan got some picture scores. One of their best came from Ruairí Curran late in the first half.
Wide on the right, he began the move by flicking the ball directly off the turf into his hands. Patterson and Cian Madden exchanged passes. Back it came to Curran, and the man from Swanlinbar popped it over. Band on the Run.
That gorgeous point helped Cavan to lead at the interval, 1-6 to 0-4. They had got the perfect start - a point and a goal inside the opening two minutes.
That was the spoonful of confidence that saw them go on and produce such scintillating stuff.
The goal was driven in by James Smith. A highlight of the first half saw three quick elegant points in-a-row from Pierson's magic wand.
Dublin had their own moments in the sun. They were quick to pounce on any loose change from the Cavan backs. But there wasn't much of that.
Yet the Dubs would have had the tonic of a goal before the break only for Gary O'Rourke making a tremendous save from Richie English.
Richie, with a clever turn, made himself a yard of space before thumping in a left-footer that O'Rourke deflected for a '45'.
Richie took the '45', with his right foot, and it just went inches wide. He's a highly capable footballer, and he didn't spare the batteries.
Dublin might have added to their first half tally, but a few of their strikes just went the wrong side of the posts.
Getting a slice of the cake became more and more difficult for Dublin after the tea.
Cavan were even more impressive in the second half. The hit the first five scores, one of which was their second goal on 40 minutes.
Smith's lofted delivery landed right at the front door of City Hall where Cormac Wall flicked it through the letter box.
David Lacey clipped over a couple of welcome frees for the Dubs, who created a pocket of openings without reward.
Cian Madden struck another beauty. Curran and Aaron Reilly contributed a couple of 99s.
The applause rang out at the end. It was richly deserved. Cavan had given a wonderful exhibition of football.
The Dubs on the terraces agreed. "They are some team."
At the presentation, the great Eddie O'Reilly said that many of the players on view from both sides could end up one day lifting Sam.
And when you grow up playing football on Quality Street, you give yourself every chance.
Dublin's Barton Bus pulled out for home, helped on their way by the officials, directing the traffic.
The Oldcastle club certainly know how to put on a show. Darkness had fallen on the countryside. The quiet roads were lit by the televisions, which were all tuned in to Des Cahill. The great Whelo too.
And as the bus continued on its way, many on board could follow the big man into the county jersey.
It had been another fruitful campaign for Dublin, topping their group with handsome wins against Louth, Westmeath and Meath.
Cavan headed the poll from Monaghan, Wicklow and Meath.
But it's not really about the results. It's about the lessons you learn on the journey.
And the performance you give on the day. Cavan couldn't have played any better.
As one Dub remarked: "They are like an inter-county team!"
He wasn't far wrong.
SCORERS - CAVAN: O Pierson 0-6 (2f), C Wall 1-0, J Smith 1-0, C Madden 0-3 (1f), R Curran, 0-2, A Reilly 0-1. DUBLIN: R English (f, 45), D Lacey (2f), A Doolin 0-2 each, E O'Dea, J Doran 0-1 each.
CAVAN: G O'Rourke; R Madden, E Fortune, R Coyle; P Rogers, C Timony, P Meade; D Cusack, R Patterson; R Curran, C Madden, J Smith; O Pierson, N McCabe, L Reilly. SUBS USED: C Wall, B Brunton, D Sweeney, P Reilly, A Reilly, L Maguire.
DUBLIN: J Keoghan; L Flatman, R Kerins, D Keogh; L Doran, L Walsh, E O'Dea; K Bissett, N Matthews; R English, J Doran, D Lacey; R Meaney, D Brennan, N O'Leary. SUBS USED: A Doolin, D Deneher, D O'Boyle, C Carberry, H Ladd.
MENTORS - CAVAN: J Brady, K Melaniff, J Moynagh, K Smith, B Brady, P Glackin. DUBLIN: T Gray, J Mangan, K Behan.
REFEREE: M Griffin (Meath).
WIDES - CAVAN: 9 (5+4). DUBLIN: 10 (5+5).
CONDITIONS: Wet, dull evening. Mild. Ball came up at pace off the sod. Hosts had the venue in immaculate order. Top-class organisation.
PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Ryan Coyle (Cavan).