Five-star Dublin crush Kildare

Ciarán Kilkenny kicked four excellent first-half points for Dublin
Ciarán Kilkenny kicked four excellent first-half points for Dublin


Dublin's dominance of Leinster is now so pronounced that nobody even raised an eyebrow when they swatted away the challenge of Kildare with consummate ease at Croke Park.

Perhaps the 19-point winning margin was a tad surprising; the bookies' handicap for the match was 11 points. 

The winning margin surpassed the 16 points that Dublin won by when the teams last clashed in the Leinster series in 2013.

Two Dublin goals in a three-minute spell in the first quarter effectively ended any remote chance that Kildare, who will play in Division 3 next season, might make this semi-final competitive.

Dublin's third goal from Diarmuid Connolly in injury time before the break - which gave the favourites an unassailable 13-point advantage (3-10; 0-6) - meant that essentially the teams were going through the motions in the second half.

This was a classic example of the curtain raiser being the game to see. In fairness most of the official attendance of 50,324 were present for Westmeath's dramatic and historic win over Meath.

But there certainly wasn't 50,000 in the stadium when referee David Coldrick brought this sad mismatch to a conclusion.

Kildare will take some consolation from their performance in the third quarter. They upped the ante and decided to physically take on Dublin resulting in a rash of skirmishes breaking out all over the field.

As a result nine players, five from Kildare: Eoin Doyle, Gary White, Paul Cribben, Padraig O'Neill and Cathal McNally and Dublin's Brian Fenton, Ciaran Kilkenny, Jonny Cooper and Diarmuid Connolly were all yellow carded.

In the first 15 minutes of the second half Kildare actually outscored Dublin 5-1 - without ever remotely looking capable of mounting the kind of dramatic comeback that Westmeath had done in the first game.

As usual Dublin boss Jim Gavin emptied his bench and it was the introduction of veteran Alan Brogan that poked them into action again.

Brogan hit three points from play in an eight-minute spell. And just to emphasise their superiority Dublin went on another mini goal spree near the end.

Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan was black carded after he upended Dean Rock just as he was shaping up to score his second goal in the 63rd minute.

Diarmuid Connolly, who despite wearing the number 14 shirt, operated as the Dublin playmaker at centre forward and deeper, sent Kildare's replacement keeper Colin Heeney the wrong way with a sublime penalty.

And just to rub more salts into Kildare's open wounds a delightful one-two between substitute Paddy Andrews and Bernard Brogan enabled the latter to hit his second goal and Dublin's fifth three minutes from the end.

The humiliation was completed. Brogan ended with a personal tally of 2-3 all from play; Connolly also scored 2-3 while Dean Rock kicked 1-4. Apart from his four frees and Connolly's penalty the rest of the of the Dublin tally (4-14) came from play.

Yet again Dublin's official team was a 'dummy' one. There were two significant changes in personnel. Michael Darragh Macauley started his first big match for Dublin since last year's All-Ireland semi-final while Rory O'Carroll returned at full back.

Presumably all of Kildare's planning had revolved around stopping Dublin from scoring goals in the first quarter. As early as the 12th minute that strategy was in shreds.

Dublin got fortunate breaks in the lead-up to both scores, though the turbo charged run of Jack McCaffrey that caused the confusion in the Kildare defence for the second goal from Bernard Brogan - his shot bounced off the head of a prostrate Diarmuid Connolly on the way to the net - was worthy of a big score. 

Dean Rock finished the first goal in the ninth minute after Philip McMahon's initial shot broke off into his hands off a Kildare defender.

With Ciaran Kilkenny in wonderful form - he kicked four majestic points in the first 24 minutes - Kildare must have known it was going to be one of those days and so it proved.

Despite Westmeath's heroics against Meath Dublin look on course to collect their tenth Leinster title in 11 seasons next month. This juggernaut won't be stopped in the province any time soon.

Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O'Carroll, P McMahon (0-1); C O'Sullivan; J Small, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, MD Macauley; P Flynn, K McManamon, C Kilkenny (0-4); D Rock (1-4, 4f), D Connolly (2-3, 1g pen), B Brogan (2-3). Subs: J McCarthy for Small 43m; A Brogan (0-3) for McManamon 43m; P Andrews for Flynn 58; M Fitzsimons for O'Carroll 58m.

Kildare: M Donnellan; C Fitzpatrick, M O'Grady, O Lyons; K Murnaghan, E Bolton (0-1), E Doyle; G White, P Cribbin (0-1); P O'Neill (0-2), E O'Flaherty (0-4, 2f), C McNally (0-1); E Callaghan, A Smith (0-1), P Fogarty (0-3, 1 45). Subs: N Kelly (0-1) for Callaghan 46m; T Moolick for White 46m; H Lynch for McNally 55m; C Heeney for Donnellan (Black card) 64m; F Dowling for Bolton 66m.

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)