SUCH WAS THE extent of Dublin’s complete dominance over Louth on Saturday evening, the only real talking points afterwards centred around Paul Mannion’s impending suspension and selection issues for Jim Gavin.
Cormac Costello’s 1-12 haul leaves a spot in Dublin’s attack as his to lose. He capitalised on Dean Rock’s absence through injury by converting 13 of his 18 scoring chances during the 26-point beating.
Elsewhere, Rory O’Carroll made his long-awaited return to the Dublin jersey after his three-year stint in New Zealand, while the window appears to be rapidly closing on Diarmuid Connolly’s potential recall to the squad.
Gavin didn’t rule out a sensational Connolly comeback, but his answer to the question about a possible return for the St Vincent’s ace was typically vague.
Asked if his championship panel for the summer has been decided, he replied: “No, it’s not.”
“We had league games on Wednesday, we were looking at those, we have league games tomorrow,” he continued. “We’ll have an early start to get out to watch some of those as well. I’d expect to see one or two fellas coming in from clubs who were out there.
“So we’ve always had an open door policy and if guys are playing well and we ask them and they want to commit to the Dublin football team then we’d be delighted to have them.”
It was then put to the Dublin manager that we may yet see Connolly rejoin the panel.
“Yeah, we could see…,” he started. “I’d open that net up wide for any player who has been performing well, be it at senior, intermediate or junior clubs in Dublin, we’re interested in them.”
On 9 June, Dublin take on the winners of the Longford-Kildare replay in the Leinster semi-final.
Jim Gavin and Jason Sherlock in O’Moore Park on Saturday evening.
Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO
If the five-time All-Ireland winner hasn’t returned to the fold by that stage it’s unlikely he’ll be part of their plans for the Drive for Five, despite the increased speculation in recent weeks.
O’Carroll first appearance for Dublin since 2015 was a fairly straight forward one. He came on for Jack McCaffrey in the 47th minute to a huge ovation from the travelling support and was deployed in the full-back line alongside Mick Fitzsimons.
By that stage the Sky Blues were 2-15 to 0-5 in front and they outscored Louth by 3-6 to 0-5 over the next half-hour. As inter-county comebacks go, it was plain sailing for O’Carroll.
We won’t get a real sense of his capacity to return to the standards he set before his departure until the Super 8s at the earliest. O’Carroll was the All-Star full-back in 2013 and 2015, with his first award arriving in the days when Dublin were an all-out attacking force with little protection for their full-back line.
In the time O’Carroll has been away, they’ve become a much harder team to break down defensively. Shortly after Mannion’s red card for a high challenge on Conal McKeever, Dublin dropped all 14 bodies behind the ball as they looked to regroup and re-establish control of the game.
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Gavin did reveal that during his last year in New Zealand, the 29-year-old had been training away with the hope of returning to the county set-up.
We welcomed him back. But I suppose he’s in based on his performances with Kilmacud Crokes. He’s in based on his championship form. He’s back. It’s been a seamless transition for him.
“But it’s a mark of the man that he has applied himself so well, even last year down in New Zealand – training away to get himself ready for his return to Kilmacud Crokes and possibly to the (Dublin) senior football team.
“That shows his dedication. But we’ve gone into plenty of battles with Rory, back since his U21 days. And we know each other really well.
Rory O’Carroll made his comeback with Kilmacud Crokes recently.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
“We keep lines of communication open with all the players. You’ve got to respect every choice that a player makes. They have to make the choices that are right for their lifestyle and their ambitions in life. We’re glad that he’s back.”
Rock and Jonny Cooper missed the last eight clash through injury, while sickness ruled Eoin Murchan out. Veteran forward Bernard Brogan didn’t make the 26-man squad, but he remains part of Gavin’s plans.
“He certainly is, absolutely, yeah. Like them all, they’re applying themselves really, really hard. I have to say it’s tough picking 26 guys never mind the starting 15.”
Louth manager Wayne Kierans cut a disconsolate figure after the heavy defeat, admitting he was impressed at Dublin’s tenacity in the tackle throughout the 70 minutes.
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“I don’t think it could go any worse, maybe if they had 15 men but it was pretty bad from our point of view,” he said.
“Obviously they have serious quality and it was a real eye opener up close how actually good they are and that’s not really a surprise, but the surprise was I thought we could have more quality and that’s the annoying thing.
“I wouldn’t have underestimated how good they are but I would have underestimated how much they would put you under pressure to force mistake and we made an awful lot of mistakes.”
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