Dubs destroy Cork to retain league title

Dublin's Jack McCaffrey was named man of the match
Dublin's Jack McCaffrey was named man of the match

DUBLIN 1-21 CORK 2-7

Dublin collected their 12th National Football League title and completed their first ever hat-trick in the competition at Croke Park.

Indeed, the win enables them to overtake Mayo in the Roll of Honour and they were now second behind Kerry (19) in the all time list of winners.

All these statistics are, of course, of academic interest to Jim Gavin and his squad, whose primary ambition is to reclaim the Sam Maguire trophy next September.

They are now 11/8 favourites to lift the title at the end of the summer. They will be reminded of the fact that having recovered from a 10-point deficit to beat Cork in last year's League semi-final by seven, they were also raging hot favourites for the All-Ireland.

But on the basis of this performance one couldn't argue with the decision of the bookies. This was their best performance against a Division 1 side since they demolished Derry in last year's final.

Unlike last year's semi-final against the Rebels when they allowed them to build up that ten-point advantage, Dublin started like an express train and kept pressing their foot on the accelerator until the contest was way beyond Cork's reach.

Brian Cuthbert will wonder whether this meltdown will have as big an impact on their championship prospects as it did last year.

They did score two second-half goals through Mark Collins and substitute Daniel Goulding but the poverty of their overall effort is underlined by the fact that the former's 48th minute goal was their first score from play. And they didn't score their first point from play until three minutes later.

Cork made an interesting tactical decision at the start moving midfielder Eoin Cadogan to defence where he picked up Diarmuid Connolly.

The Dublin playmaker, indeed, appeared to be marked out for particular attention by Cork as he was felled by a late elbow from Jamie O'Sullivan after he released the ball after just five minutes.

The incident was missed by the match officials but the Cork wing back is likely to face censure from the GAA authorities as a result of the foul.

But Dublin completely dominated the contest in the first quarter. Tactically, they got it right with Philly McMahon moving forward to mark the Cork 'sweeper' Mark Collins, who operated deep in his own half.

More specifically Dublin pressed up on the Cork kick-outs. Unless goalkeeper Ken O'Halloran was able to get his kick away quickly his defenders were hounded inside their own half once they had possession and inevitably coughed up the ball.

Dublin had five points on the board within 12 minutes and an indication of the nature of the exchanges was that Colm O'Neill didn't get his first touch until the 14th minute.

Cork got their first score from this attack but in general O'Neill and Brian Hurley were getting no change out of Rory O'Carroll and Jonny Cooper.

Dublin's wayward finishing - they kicked seven wides in the half - kept Cork in the contest. 

Indeed, they were only trailing by three points with five minutes of normal time remaining in the first half after Colm O'Neill began to win close-in frees after O'Carroll departed through injury.

But Dublin went into overdrive from then until the break tagging on 1-2. The goal came from a somewhat dubious penalty - Michael Shields was adjudged to have tripped Tomás Brady - a late replacement for Paul Flynn. Connolly calmly beat Ken O'Halloran who was booked for kicking off the spot!

Leading by 1-9 to 0-5 Dublin already had one hand on the trophy. Any chance of the Cork revival unraveled in the early moments of the second half when, seconds after his introduction, Daniel Goulding fisted the ball off the crossbar from close range and saw Cluxton save his second effort.

The rest of the third quarter was mostly exhibition stuff from the Dubs. For reasons best known to themselves Cork left their left defensive channel completely unguarded even though this is where the lighting fast Jack McCaffrey loves to launch his attacks from.

He won Man of the Match and was within the width of the post of scoring the goal of the season - set up by a wonderful 50 metre crossfield kick pass from Diarmuid Connolly who was marked by Shields in the second half.

But McCaffrey's shot rebounded off the upright and he had to be content with knocking the rebound over the bar.

All of Dublin's forwards scored from play with Dean Rock hitting 0-10 while Ciaran Kilkenny (0-3) gave his best performance since returning from injury. But really it was a no-contest.

On this form one shudders to think about the kind of ritual hammerings that the Dubs will hand out to their opponents - none of whom play in Division 1- in the forthcoming Leinster championship.

The other teams in Leinster can only hope (and pray) that Dublin don't bring their A game to those matches because as Cork have now discovered twice in the last 13 months, when they do the outcome is not pretty for the opposition.

Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O'Carroll, P McMahon (0-1); J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J McCaffrey (0-1); D Bastick, B Fenton; T Brady (0-1), C Kilkenny (0-3), D Connolly (1-1, 1gl pen), D Rock (0-10, 7f), K McManamon (0-2), B Brogan (0-2). Subs M Fitzsimons for O'Carroll 26m. P Andrews (0-1) for Brady 45m; E O Conghaile for Bastick 54m;  C Costello for Connolly 58m; J Small for McMahon 61m; D Daly for Fenton 63m.

Cork: K O'Halloran; N Galvin, M Shields, J Loughrey; J O'Sullivan, E Cadogan, T Clancy, C Dorman, F Goold; K O'Driscoll, J O'Rourke, C O'Driscoll; C O'Neill (0-6, 5f), M Collins (1-0), B Hurley (0-1, 1f). Subs P Kerrigan for Dorman 26m; D Goulding (1-0) for O'Rourke 37m; B O'Driscoll for C O'Driscoll 50m; D Og Hodnett for O'Sullivan 52m; J Hayes for  Collins 58m; S Cronin for P Galvin 62m.