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Sunday 20 October 2019

Dublin have not lost their killer instinct

Champs in fine shape as they ease past Louth

Brian Fenton was in imperious form for the Dubs against Louth. Pic: Sportsfile
Brian Fenton was in imperious form for the Dubs against Louth. Pic: Sportsfile

While events on Saturday night in Portlaoise went very much as expected, I reckon that Dublin can be justifiably pleased with the professionalism that they showed in confirming their favourite's tag.

Of course, it wasn't the greatest spectacle as far as the neutral was concerned and as advertisements for a second tier of championship football go, the chasm between the two teams could not have been wider.

Through no fault of their own, Louth aren't at Dublin's level and that's despite enjoying an encouraging league and having a championship win already under their belts.

They proved powerless to prevent Dublin from controlling the game right from the first whistle and the manner in which Dublin were able to stroll through their defence suggested it was the Dubs who had the extra man, and not Louth.

In reference to the sending-off, I thought that Paul Mannion was terribly unlucky to be dismissed as I don't think there was any intent in terms of the challenge that he made.

Certainly, it didn't resemble the first cousin of Niall Morgan's challenge on Paddy Andrews earlier in the year, one for which the Tyrone goalkeeper escaped censure, and I would be optimistic that Mannion's red card will be overturned should Dublin appeal the decision.

That they were able to dominate matters despite playing roughly three-quarters of the game at a numerical disadvantage shows the inflated level at which Dublin are operating relative to other counties in the province and Brian Fenton was at his imperious best in setting the tone.

His ability to keep Dublin on the front foot has long been recognised and that lengthy stride he possesses was in evidence as he strolled through the Louth defence for Dublin's second goal, early in the second half.

By then, the match was effectively over as a contest but Dublin maintained their clinical approach and their killer instinct was reflected by Michael Darragh Macauley's goal.

Few would have quibbled had Paddy Small attempted to shoot when well placed but he showed great composure in picking out the right pass and that ethos of finding the man in the best position is what sets this Dublin team apart from many of their challengers.

Another positive from a Dublin perspective was the performance of Cormac Costello and hopefully Saturday's display will be the foundation that the Whitehall Colmcille player requires to establish himself in the starting line-up.

It's bizarre to think that he only has three starts in championship football spanning six years but Saturday's showing could be just the start of something special in the blue jersey.

Costello has always been a confidence player and his great pace and wonderful place-kicking could place serious pressure on the likes of Dean Rock, who will need to fight to get his starting place back.

Rock won't be the only one hoping to return to the side, with Jonny Cooper another mainstay of the team that missed Saturday's win. Jim Gavin will be delighted to see that competition for places and also having a strong bench to call upon.

Both Philly McMahon and Rory O'Carroll got valuable game time at the weekend and while you wouldn't expect too many changes for the semi-final, it appears Dublin's options are enhanced ahead of their last-four clash against either Kildare or Longford.

Earlier in the day, I have to say I was pleased to see Meath come through comfortably against Carlow. It's quite encouraging from a provincial perspective that the Royals appear to be playing with a degree of confidence once again.

They had strong league campaign and there is a degree of momentum at their backs. If they manage to overcome Laois, there could be a competitive Leinster final on the horizon, assuming Dublin advance to the decider.

One team that won't be experiencing a provincial final is Mayo, whose traditional flaws reared their ugly heads once again when losing to Roscommon.

There was a fair degree of hype building up after they won the League and perhaps that was understandable, given the heartache they suffered in major finals down the years.

However, I was disappointed in their display against Dublin in the league and despite enjoying all the possession in the world, they didn't possess the necessary composure to get the job done.

Their inability to get over the line is a serious concern and taking high-risk attempts like the one Andy Moran tried in the dying stages highlights their issues in front of goal.

It proved a harsh lesson, given their euphoria of earlier in the year, and while you wouldn't back against them making the Super 8s, their failings up front look certain to undermine their All-Ireland hopes.

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