Dublin 2-17 Clare 0-17
Dublin’s Ryan O’Dwyer is a picture of determination against a host of Clare defenders
MARTIN BREHENY – 24 FEBRUARY 2014
Davy Fitzgerald’s comments after the win over Kilkenny in the first round that Clare would have patchy days over the next few months, with the first possibly coming against Dublin who had lost heavily to Galway, proved uncannily prophetic in Parnell Park yesterday.
Dublin responded to the demolition in Pearse Stadium by re-booting their entire system and were rewarded with a return to the power which sustained them so effectively throughout last year. Clare, as their manager had feared, dropped their efficiency levels and were punished with a two-goal defeat.
It was a fair reflection of the difference between the sides, even if Clare could have reduced the deficit in the closing minutes by taking easy point chances rather than trying to create goal openings. They needed two goals to rescue the situation but low drives from frees by Tony Kelly and sub Bobby Duggan were blocked on the Dublin goal-line.
With so much of Dublin’s game having gone right all afternoon, they were always likely to make those late saves, whereas it would have been a real steal if Clare had pilfered a point. The All-Ireland champions struggled from the start against a Dublin team that were clearly on a retrieval mission after the misery of a week earlier.
“We asked for a response and we got it. Clare probably targeted last week something savage at home to Kilkenny and it’s hard then to be 100pc for the following week. We sensed an advantage there and went for it,” said Dublin manager Anthony Daly.
Centre-back Liam Rushe, one of several front-liners who misfired against Galway, was first to go in search of work and responsibility and, having settled quickly into a high-tempo rhythm, he inspired his colleagues into joining him.
While Rushe anchored the defence with immense authority, Conal Keaney was the star act in an attack. He scored 1-3 from play, with his 14th-minute goal decorating an impressive opening which had already yielded six points.
Alan McCrabbe, who started in place of Paul Ryan, who has a groin injury, took over the free-taking duties, pointing eight while also slicing a delicate sideline cut over the bar. While Dublin hummed along nicely, Clare hurled in fits and starts.
They did their best to hang on when things weren’t going well in the hope that they would eventually crank up the momentum machine which has become such a crucial part of their game. However, the closest they got was when John Conlon hoisted his third point in the 29th minute to cut the deficit to three points (1-9 to 0-9).
By half-time, Dublin had pulled five points clear (1-12 to 0-10) and when Colm Cronin, who started in place of Stephen Hiney, whipped in Dublin’s second goal in the 44th minute, a match-winning gap had been opened.
Cronin’s goal was later referenced by Fitzgerald as an example of Clare’s uncharacteristic sloppiness as they left him unmarked as he drifted towards goal, prior to taking a pass from McCrabbe.
Shortly afterwards, Shane Durkin also found himself in a large unmanned area around midfield before casually hoisting a point after McCrabbe fed him off a line ball.
Those two moments summed up Clare’s lethargy. They are normally so good at crowding the opposition but, for whatever reason, the edge was blunted yesterday.
“As I said before the league started and again after the Kilkenny game, this is going to be a patchy time for us. We’ll have good and bad days,” said Fitzgerald.
“We definitely didn’t have as much hunger as the last day. We knew Dublin would fight like tigers, which they did, but we definitely didn’t play with the same fire or enthusiasm that we normally would. You’re not going to get a big performance every day.”
Still, he will have been disappointed with the extent to which Dublin dominated the aerial exchanges, especially off puck-outs. And when the ball went to ground, Dublin brought greater intensity to the scrap for possession on a bumpy surface.
“We got hammered on the puck-outs, our own and theirs. That was a big plus for Dublin. No matter what we did, we couldn’t win them. Dublin were just better than us today – it’s as simple as that,” conceded Fitzgerald.
Dublin led by 2-16 to 0-13 at the three-quarter point and while they scored just one more point, they were sufficiently solid in defence to withstand Clare’s revival bid. Dublin had a sizeable share of possession in the last quarter but inaccurate shooting and some poor decision-making kept their strike-rate down.
“It’s a pity we didn’t take some more of the chances and improve our scoring difference,” said Daly, who like everyone else in this competitive group is full aware of how tight the margins are likely to be at the end of the final round.
It was hugely important for Dublin to recover quickly from the Galway setback and they did it most impressively.
Clare made it easier than expected but then Dublin were switched on right from the throw-in and once they had set the agenda they were not going to allow it be changed.
Dublin are still bottom of 1A on scoring difference but are the only team in the group not to have conceded a goal. Clare rarely got in a strike on GaryMaguire from open play, which will have pleased Daly, who is now hoping that yesterday was the real start to Dublin’s season.
And just as he kept the heavy defeat by Galway in perspective, he kept yesterday’s success in context too.
“It’s one day in February, the same as last week was one day in February – we’re not too over the moon today because we know there’s a lot of work ahead,” he said.
Davy Fitz isn’t noted for his compassion in a defeated dressing-room but yesterday was something of an exception. “I can’t expect these boys to be up day after day. I had a feeling that there could be six teams level after this weekend. This is going to be a right tough league,” he said.
Scorers – Dublin: A McCrabbe 0-9 (8fs, 1 s-l), C Keaney 1-3, C Cronin 1-1, S Durkin 0-2, J McCaffrey, D O’Callaghan 0-1 each. Clare: C Ryan 0-7 (7fs), J Conlon 0-3, B Duggan (2f), T Kelly (1f) 0-2 each, C McGrath, P O’Connor, C O’Connell 0-1 each.
Dublin – G Maguire 7; N Corcoran 7, P Kelly 7, S Timlin 5; C Cronin 7, L Rushe 9, M Carton 7; S Durkin 8, J McCaffrey 7; C Keaney 8, R Dwyer 7, D Sutcliffe 7; A McCrabbe 8, D O’Callaghan 7, M Schutte 6. Subs: J Dougan 7 for Timlin (31), E Dillon 5 for McCrabbe (62), D Treacy for O’Callaghan (65), N McMorrow for O’Dwyer (70).
Clare – D Tuohy 7; S Morey 6, C Dillon 6, D McInerney 6; P O’Connor 6, Conor Ryan 6, B Bugler 6; P Donnellan 6, S Golden 5; J Conlon 8, T Kelly 6, Colin Ryan 6; C McGrath 5, S O’Donnell 5, C Galvin 5. Subs: N O’Connell 6 for Golden (ht), C O’Connell 6 for Conor Ryan (41), B Duggan 6 Colin Ryan (49), D Reidy for Morey (65).
Ref – A Kelly (Galway)