HomeFootballSufficient if not efficient as Dublin get by impressive Louth

Sufficient if not efficient as Dublin get by impressive Louth

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Leinster SFC final
Dublin 1-19 Louth 2-12

It’s a curiosity of Ger Brennan’s legacy as a Dublin player that it was enhanced by missing their 2014 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal through injury.

Typically found standing sentry at the centre of Dublin or St Vincent’s defences, the Brennan-less Dublin were pulled asunder that day and counter attacked into oblivion.

In his first game managing against Dublin, a decade on and on the same pitch, Brennan borrowed from the Jim McGuinness script.

Identifying Dublin’s aggression in the tackle and ferocity on the break as key attributes of Dessie Farrell’s group, Brennan came up with a strategy to strip Dublin of those assets.

Louth set up with what Farrell identified as a ‘very low, deep set block’, declined to contest any of the Dublin kick-outs and then tried to punish them on the counter attack, just like Donegal famously did.

It almost worked too because closing in on 55 minutes, the sides were level for the 10th time, 1-10 to 0-13.

Con O’Callaghan’s goal shortly after turned the game and Louth fans in the paltry 23,113 crowd may point to goalkeeper Niall McDonnell’s errant kick which was intercepted by substitute Jack McCaffrey to set up O’Callaghan.

But McDonnell can be cut some slack. In his debut year, and faced with Dublin’s press for each of his kick-outs across almost 80 minutes, he was largely rock solid.

Truth be told, the game actually turned on the finest of margins. Bevan Duffy clipped John Small’s ankle entirely by accident, resulting in a free in for Dublin that Cormac Costello converted. From the kick-out came the Dublin goal and they led 1-14 to 1-10. Talk about a game of inches as All-Ireland champions Dublin streaked clear to lift the Leinster title for the 63rd time.

“In the second-half we went to press a bit more,” explained Dublin manager Dessie Farrell of how things turned. “You’re taking a little bit of a risk at the back when you do that but ultimately we needed to get the ball back quicker and see more transition in the plays. We got to grips with that end of it in the second-half.”

Dublin's Con O'Callaghan is hoping to help guide the Sky Blues to five in a row next season
Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan.

Dublin outscored Louth by 1-5 to 0-2 between the 54th and 62nd minutes, a crucial spell in which the game was decided. There was a lot going on during those eight minutes from a Dublin perspective. They got a kick from the bench for starters as McCaffrey set up the goal and fellow sub Paddy Small fisted a point too. Then there was the unique ability of O’Callaghan who struck 1-2 during that mini-blitz.

All of Dublin’s big game experience naturally counted too. They stretched the gap to seven by stoppage time before Craig Lennon palmed in a second goal for Louth. The four-point gap at the end better reflected Louth’s gargantuan efforts.

Sam Mulroy was brilliant for them, shooting six points and he closed out the first-half scoring with a point from a free that left the 0-7 to 0-6 ahead.

When kicking that free from around 40 metres out, there was no red jersey ahead of him. That’s how committed Louth were to not getting caught on the break.

“It was horses for courses,” shrugged Louth manager Brennan of the approach. “Gaelic football is very simple, you’re looking at other teams who have done well against Dublin, what they did. You were looking at the skill set and athleticism of our guys and how you could come up with a pragmatic approach to give us the best chance of being competitive. Our fellas never stood off.”

Conor Grimes was excellent for Louth, a man mountain whose running and kicking ability has developed superbly. Grimes shot four points from play while Ciaran Keenan’s 44th minute goal that put Louth one up at that stage was expertly taken.

Donal McKenny, breaking away from tormenting Paul Mannion, hared away up the left of the pitch, played a kick-pass to Mulroy which broke kindly for Keenan and the Ardee man raced beyond Cluxton and struck to the net.

From Dublin’s perspective, it was all a little lethargic, like the prospect of a 14th consecutive Leinster title success didn’t inspire them. Brian Fenton appeared to want it as badly as ever. He scored three first-half points and engineered two more after the restart for Mannion and Ciaran Kilkenny. But there wasn’t enough urgency about Dublin and it took the jet heels of McCaffrey and Paddy Small to finally open things up.

Louth’s next game in a fortnight will be against Meath in the All-Ireland series. According to Brennan, that game will be in Monaghan’s Inniskeen.

Dublin 

S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons,E Murchan, S Bugler (0-1); J McCarthy,J Small, C Murphy; T Lahiff (0-1),B Fenton (0-3); N Scully, C Costello (0-6, 3f), C Kilkenny (0-1); P Mannion (0-1),C O’Callaghan (1-4, 1m), C Basquel (0-1).

Subs J McCaffrey for Scully & P Small (0-1) for Basquel 49, B Howard for Lahiff 63, R McGarry for Bugler 64, K McGinnis for Mannion 71

Louth

 N McDonnell; P Lynch, N Sharkey,D McKenny; D Corcoran, A Williams,C Lennon (1-0); T Durnin (0-1), B Duffy;C McKeever, C Keenan (1-0), C Grimes (0-4); L Grey, S Mulroy (0-6, 5f),C Downey (0-1).

Subs D Campbell for Sharkey 49, C Earley for Williams 55, R Burns for Keenan& C Byrne for Durnin 59, L Jackson for Grey 65

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