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Sunday 17 December 2017

No glee by the Lee for the Dubs

Gavin still upbeat as his young Dubs falter

1 February 2015; Kevin McManamon, Dublin, in action against James Loughrey, Cork. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Round 1, Cork v Dublin, P?irc U? Rinn, Cork. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
1 February 2015; Kevin McManamon, Dublin, in action against James Loughrey, Cork. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Round 1, Cork v Dublin, P?irc U? Rinn, Cork. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
1 February 2015; Kevin McManamon, Dublin, in action against James Loughrey, Cork. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Round 1, Cork v Dublin, P?irc U? Rinn, Cork. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
1 February 2015; Colm O'Driscoll, Cork, in action against Eoghan O'Gara, Dublin. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Round 1, Cork v Dublin, P?irc U? Rinn, Cork. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

DUBLIN footballers have always lost on Leeside - for the last quarter-century, at any rate - so one more defeat behind Rebel lines with a team containing just one-third of their last championship line-up will hardly make or break their season.

That's the glass-half-full, big picture vista from Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday.

The more forensic, ultra-critical small picture? Dublin conspired to lose a game that looked eminently within their grasp for close to an hour.

More specifically, they led by two points after 55 minutes only to leak five of the last six scores - and so Cork took the morale-boosting spoils on day one of the Allianz Football League.

You can proffer several reasons for this fourth-quarter momentum shift. Perhaps the most telling was that Jim Gavin emptied his bench during that second half - but several of his rookie charges failed to hit the ground running at the very time Cork were discovering a renewed lease of life.

It looked a case of Rebels scenting vulnerability and going for the jugular, a theory bolstered by the identity of their last two scorers: Eoin Cadogan and Conor Dorman.

GROANS

Roaming full-back Cadogan charged up field to finish off a counter-attack that started with Dublin chasing an equalising point only for Eric Lowndes to fumble possession. Another Dublin sub, Michael Deegan, reduced the deficit to a point on the stroke of 70 minutes ... cue audible groans from the large travelling contingent when just one minute of stoppage-time was signalled. Not that it mattered as workaholic wing-back Dorman played a key link role in another Rebel surge and then kept motoring up the field to finish off the same move.

So it finished 1-15 to 0-16 - an important kickstart for a Cork team facing four bouts of 'northern exposure' this spring, starting with next Sunday's trip to Monaghan. Meanwhile, for the first time in Gavin's three-year tenure, there will be a frisson of early-season pressure - especially if they fail to bounce back against Donegal in Croke Park next Saturday night.

Not that the manager himself sounded remotely perturbed when he met the media afterwards.

FANTASTIC

"I think it was a fantastic effort and a lot of guys got their first taste of National League football. So I think, in the long term, this will benefit Dublin," he insisted.

His team had featured just five men who started against Donegal last August: Rory O'Carroll, Jonny Cooper, Jack McCaffrey, Eoghan O'Gara and Cormac Costello.

Michael Darragh Macauley, sent off against Kildare in the O'Byrne Cup final but still eligibile, didn't even travel with the match-day squad. There were starts for Eoin Culligan, John Small, Shane Carthy, Emmet Ó Conghaile and Dean Rock (hard to believe, his full league debut) while Brian Fenton, Conor McHugh, Lowndes and Deegan were all afforded cameos.

Of the non-established brigade, Rock made the biggest impact with another 0-8 (four from play) to build on a prolific January; others like Small and Carthy did well in spells; for some of the young guns, especially the subs, it was a steep learning curve.

According to Gavin, his mission had been to "give players an experience of the intensity of Division One football - which isn't too far off championship level. That will benefit them. They are disappointed, naturally enough, but we'll view the tape and they'll understand now, when we talk about the intensity of championship football and National League football, what it means. And they'll be better prepared for the next challenge."

Gavin glossed over the inevitable question about Dublin's historic woes by the Lee (now eight consecutive defeats dating back to November 1990) whereas his opposite number, Brian Cuthbert, said the suggestion that Cork had been viewed beforehand as relegation-fodder was "news to me".

His charges had led by 1-7 to 0-9 after a first half that ebbed and flowed even as the errors mounted, aided largely by a 12th minute goal bundled home by Jamie O'Sullivan.

When Dublin surged out of the second half blocks with the first three points, Cork looked in trouble and Cuthbert admitted: "It could have been a three or four-point win for them and you'd be disillusioned that they came down without key players and we got no victory."

But, for the last 20 minutes, he felt Cork were in "complete control" and with a bit more composure could have won more easily.

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