Dublin power past Cavan into All-Ireland SFC Final
All-Ireland SFC semi-final
DUBLIN 1-24 CAVAN 0-12
By John Harrington at Croke Park
Dublin are through to an eight All-Ireland Final in 10 years and will be hot favourites to extend their history making run of consecutive titles to six in a row.
This semi-final went pretty much as expected. Cavan gave it their all, but they simply couldn’t cope with Dublin’s pace, power, and clinical finishing.
The gulf between the two teams was most vivid when they ran with the ball and tried to punch through the first tackle or line of defence.
Dublin players had the strength and burst of pace to make that initial incision with relative ease, but Cavan struggled to do so and many of their players seemed reluctant to take Dublin players on in that test of strength.
Ciarán Brady was one of their only players who consistently punched holes with his runs from deep. Most of his team-mates were turned backwards by swarming Dublin tacklers.
And because Cavan were having to defend in numbers whenever Dublin had the ball, when they did turn it over they struggled to transition quickly enough to dangerous positions higher up the pitch because of their difficulty breaking tackles and creating overlaps for supporting runners.
They also simply didn’t have as many natural score-takers as Dublin did.
Dean Rock isn't just the best free-taker in the country, he's also arguably the best forward at making looping runs that allow him to collect a popped pass from a team-mate in a pocket of space that allows him to immediately get a kick off.
He finished the game with a total of six points, four of which came from play, and his movement throughout was a joy to watch.
The other Dublin player on another level throughout the match was midfielder Brian Fenton.
His fielding, powerful running with the ball, and accurate point-kicking was awesome to watch at times. The man who has never lost a championship football is now entering all-time great territory.
Cavan actually started the match well, scoring a point after just 13 seconds through Martin Reilly, and gave as good as they got in the early exchanges.
James Smith and Thomas Galligan also kicked nice points in the first seven minutes by which time it was 0-3 apiece.
But even then there were some warning signs for the Breffni men because Dublin’s three points were kicked under very little pressure whereas Cavan had to work so hard for theirs.
As the half progressed and Fenton began to dominate the middle third, the traffic started flowing more heavily in the direction of the Cavan goals.
Rock hit three points in quick succession, one a free, to drive a wedge between the teams on the scoreboard for the first time, and Dublin never really looked back.
The spirited Ciarán Brady did his best to rally the troops by charging down the middle of the pitch before kicking a fine point, but, more and more, it was Dublin now dictating the pace of the game.
Brian Fenton kicked his second super point of the match and Rock landed another to push Dublin’s advantage to five points after 21 minutes, and, even by then, you felt it was only the margin of Dublin’s victory that was a variable.
Cavan did dig in from there to half-time, with Oisin Kiernan producing a particularly heroic moment when he saved Nially Scully’s shot with a diving intervention.
Kiernan also kicked the last point of the half to leave the score reading 0-12 to 0-7 in Dublin’s favour at the break.
The reigning champions were never likely to ease up in the second-half.
They have the benefit of a bench full of multiple All-Ireland winners and All-Stars desperate to make a mark if given a chance, which in turn keeps a nice fire lit under the 15 that start the game.
Con O’Callaghan, who grew into the game, got them off the mark at the start of the second-half and then Fenton kicked an outrageous point from the right wing to further frank his dominance of the contest.
Paddy Small worked hard throughout the match and another point, this time from a mark, was testament to his industry.
Conor Madden eventually got Cavan’s first score of the half after 43 minutes, but by now their forwards were living off crumbs as Dublin dominated possession.
Ciaran Kilkenny looked like he was sure to score the first goal of the match a minute later when he burst through and unleashed a corker of a drop-kick, but Martin Reilly got back to somehow tip the shot over the cross-bar.
It was typical of Reilly to make an intervention like that, because he never stopped trying throughout and kicked two cracking second-half points that briefly raised flagging Cavan spirits.
One of those started a sequence of three Cavan points in quick succession with Oisin Kiernan and James Smith kicking the other two, but that only seemed to urge Dublin on to produce a big finish.
They finally hit the back of the net on 64 minutes when Dean Rock floated a hand-pass across the Cavan small square to Robbie McDaid who palmed the ball to the net.
The Ballyboden defender finished with a personal tally of 1-2 and has really flourished since being given a run in the team by Dessie Farrell.
The faith he has put in others like Sean Bugler and Paddy Small has also been rewarded and served to amp up the already ferocious competition for places in this Dublin panel.
It was notable how pumped up substitutes like Brian Howard, Philly McMahon, Paul Mannion, and Cormac Costello when they came in the second-half were, which ensured Dublin played right to the final whistle.
They finished with a flourish too, as points from Fenton, Rock and Costello added one last layer of icing to a very sweet performance.
Scorers for Dublin: Dean Rock 0-6 (2f), Robbie McDaid (1-2), Ciaran Kilkenny 0-4 (1mark), Con O’Callaghan 0-4, Brian Fenton 0-4, Paddy Small 0-2 (1 mark), Cormac Costello 0-1, Brian Howard 0-1
Scorers for Cavan: Martin Reilly 0-3, Oisín Kiernan 0-2, James Smith 0-2, Conor Madden 0-1, Chris Conroy 0-1 (f), Gearóid McKiernan 0-1 (f), Thomas Galligan 0-1, Ciarán Brady 0-1
DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Michael Fitzsimons, David Byrne, Jonny Cooper; Eoin Murchan, John Small, Robert McDaid; Brian Fenton, James McCarthy; Niall Scully, Ciarán Kilkenny, Seán Bugler; Paddy Small, Con O’Callaghan, Dean Rock. Subs: Brian Howard for Sean Bugler (48), Philly McMahon for Jonny Cooper (52), Paul Mannion for Paddy Small (55), Cormac Costello for Niall Scully (64), Colm Basquel for Dean Rock (71)
CAVAN: Raymond Galligan; Jason McLoughlin, Pádraig Faulkner, Killian Clarke; Gerard Smith, Ciarán Brady, Luke Fotune; Thomas Galligan, Killian Brady; Martin Reilly, Gearóid McKiernan, Oisín Kiernan; Conor Madden, Chris Conroy, James Smith. Subs: Conor Smith for Killian Brady (18), Stephen Murray for Chris Conroy (35), Niall Murray for Killian Clarke (46), Conor Brady for Conor Smith (52), Stephen Smith for Conor Madden (630
Ref: Ciarán Branagan (Down)