Dubs squeeze past Monaghan

Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly surges past Neil McAdam of Monaghan
Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly surges past Neil McAdam of Monaghan


The champagne era for Dublin football under Jim Gavin has been consigned to history. 

This was an artisan performance from the 1/8 favourites who twice sailed close to the wind before staying on track to win their third Allianz League title on the spin for the first time in their history.

Jim Gavin's side will meet Cork in the final in two weeks' time. It will be their first clash in a knock-out match since last year's decider when they recovered from a ten-point deficit early in the second half to win by seven.

Hammered by Dublin in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final, Monaghan suffered an 11-point 'tanking' from the Dubs last weekend.

They needed a 'performance' today and they responded in the most positive manner imaginable.

On the other hand, it was difficult for Dublin to prepare for today's match. 

Essentially they road tested their new philosophy. No more all out attacking - now everything is more calculated and cautious.

What today's contest did prove, however, is that tactical contests can be entertaining.

Right from the start the tactical battles were fascinating. Monaghan deployed two sweepers, Dessie Mone and Ryan McAnespie - a late inclusion - with team captain Conor McManus acting as their version of the 'Lone Ranger' up front.

He had the measure of Dublin's rookie full back David Byrne - who replaced Rory O'Carroll - but he didn't see much of the ball in the first half. But as the game progressed and Monaghan built a platform in the middle third of the field McManus' influence grew.

His eight-point haul - five from play - underlined the scale of his influence. Dublin were very slow to react; he had kicked his fifth point from play before Byrne was substituted in the 53rd minute.

He won one dubious free from his new marker Johnny Cooper immediately afterwards but didn't make a significant contribution after that, though he was a worthy winner of the official Man of the Match award.

At the other end Kevin McManamon - who got the nod ahead of Bernard Brogan - acted as the point man for the Dublin attack. 

Between them the two sides created one decent goal chance - which Dublin's Cian O'Sullivan missed - but this statistic sums up their cautious approach. 

Yet, all the science cannot obscure some basic fundamentals. The complete breakdown of Monaghan's kick-out strategy in the first half ought to have buried their chances.

They only secured possession from four of Rory Beggan's 16 restarts but a combination of woeful finishing from Dublin - they kicked seven wides in the first half - and an unwillingness to commit more men forward meant that Monaghan hung in. They trailed by two points at the break (0-9; 0-7).

The introduction at the break of veteran Dick Clerkin changed the dynamics of the battle in the middle third of the field even if Monaghan still struggled to win their own kick-out.

Effectively the Farney County took control of the sector as evident by the fact that Denis Bastick - who was outstanding for Dublin in the first half, winning four of Beegan's kick outs - and his partner Cian O'Sullivan had been withdrawn by the 53rd minute.

Clerkin's ability to hit points from long range - he finished up with three - combined with McManus's brilliance up front hauled Monaghan back into the game. 

A Clerkin point had the sides level by the 53rd minute and suddenly the Monaghan fans in the crowd of just over 20,000 became animated.

It got better for Monaghan when a McManus free gave them the lead with 15 minutes left. By then Dublin had introduced four of their replacements. 

Emmet O Conghaile made the biggest impact, winning a free and then kicking a wonderful long-range point in the 64th minute to give his side a two-point advantage.

Dublin had upped the pace and when Jack McCaffrey stretched their lead to three with four minutes left the game looked over. But Monaghan showed commendable resolve to hit the next two scores and Dessie Mone and substitute Stephen Gollogly missed late chances to tie up the scores.

In the modern game turnovers are the equivalent of lotto wins as Monaghan discovered to their cost. 

On two occasions, firstly in the dying minutes of the first half and again with four minutes remaining speculative shots from Kieran Hughes and Dick Clerkin respectivley were collected by Stephen Cluxton. 

He launched counter attacks which culminated in points at the other end. Ultimately, those two scores were the difference between winning and losing.

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; J Cooper, D Byrne, P McMahon (0-2); J McCarthy, J Small, J McCaffrey (0-1); D Bastick (0-1), C O'Sullivan; P Flynn (0-1), D Connolly, B Fenton (0-2); C Kilkenny, D Rock (0-7, 6f, 1 45), K McMenamon (0-2). Subs: MD Macauley for O'Sullivan 45m; P Andrews for McManamon 50m; D Daly for Byrne 53m; E O Conghaile (0-1) for Bastick 53m; C Costello for Fenton 61m; T Brady for Flynn 69m.

MONAGHAN: R Beggan (0-1 1f), R Wylie, K Duffy, F Kelly; K O'Carroll, V Corey, M McAdam (0-1); P Finlay (0-1, 1f), D Hughes; R McAnespie, D Mone, T Kerr; K Hughes (0-2), C McManus (0-8, 3f), O Duffy. Subs D Clerkin (0-3) for Kerr ht; D Malone for Duffy 41m; S Gollogly for McAnespie 42m; P McKenna for Finlay 63m; D McKenna for O'Connell 69m. 

REFEREE: Rory Hickey (Clare)