Monday 18 December 2017

Dubs still have the answers

Gavin's men in winning habit

Dublin’s Shane Carthy in action against Ryan Mallon of Down during the Allianz Football League match at Páirc Esler in Newry Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Shane Carthy in action against Ryan Mallon of Down during the Allianz Football League match at Páirc Esler in Newry Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Cormac Costello (right) in action against Down’s Gerard Collins in Newry Photo: Sportsfile

Jim Gavin almost seemed a little surprised.

Five games into this year's League, Dublin are cradling a 100 per cent win record and as of Saturday night, have a semi-final spot booked at their earliest possible convenience.

The way he saw it in Newry after Down were felled a Division, the squad "haven't too much done" in the way of heavy lifting and while he praised his players' "marvelous application," he wasn't deafening with his applause of their performance.

"They're applying themselves in each task they're asked to do," he said, offering only a sober nod of approval.

"Tonight, we created a lot more scoring chances, which was great to see, particularly against that sort of defence.


"Our execution could improve and our return could certainly improve but that gives us something to work on."

And you couldn't really argue.

How ever many gears Dublin have, they only occupied the ones necessary here to win by eight points against a team who produced their best performance of the League so far.

A recurring theme in 2016.

Equally, their inconvenient penchant for little periods of meekness was again eclipsed by their singular ability to choke the life out of their opposition.

Where Cork were caught from two laps back in Croke Park a week ago, Down were allowed a little head start here and then hunted down like prey.

When Dublin go full press and pin a team in, like they did to Down in a 20-minute spell in Newry on Saturday night, it takes a whole load of thought and sweat to break free.

"They attacked our kick-outs to turn us over," Down manager, Éamon Burns noted afterwards.

"Which we knew they would do anyway.

"I watched them play Cork last week and they did the same to Cork."

For a team as patently out of their depth as Down looked in their four Division 1 games prior to Saturday night, they gave Dublin a good, honest rattle for about 10 minutes, enough to send a little electricity around Páirc Esler.

After five minutes, Donal O'Hare's effort for a point dipped underneath the Dublin cross bar.

Stephen Cluxton had his angles covered but mishandled the ball and it dropped over his line.

"That's life," Gavin shrugged.

"We all make mistakes. He's such an experienced player. We have an experienced group of players and they respond to these things.

"I thought he played very well. His kick-outs were excellent throughout the game. But that's just life."

As if to punish Down for their petulance, Dublin went and hemmed them into their own half for roughly 20 minutes.

From 0-1 to 1-2 down, Dublin went 1-8 to 1-2 up, a large booty of those scores coming directly from winning Michael Cunningham's kick-out and charging back the way with numbers.

If Dublin's sleekest football wasn't ever visible, their ability to think and adapt in real time was in vivid colour.

"It's been a bit bumpy. Teams asked a lot of questions of us in each of the games and I think we responded well to those," Gavin noted.


Little victories too.

Cormac Costello scored 1-5 (0-4f). Kevin McManamon got two points on his first start of the year.

Paul Flynn, while black-carded in the second half, was far more relevant to proceedings than he was in his last two matches and kicked two of his own.

Eric Lowndes was replaced halfway into his first major audition for Jack McCaffrey's jersey last week in Croke Park but he was purposeful and efficient after coming on here at a point in the game when a run of three Down points briefly gave them a cause for concern.

"I think we showed great composure and responded well from that and from then, I thought we controlled the game," Gavin added.

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