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title defence Dublin too good for Roscommon as Mick Galvin leads All-Ireland champions to victory

Dublin 1-22 Roscommon 0-16

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Cormac Costello nets a penalty in Dublin's win over Roscommon. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cormac Costello nets a penalty in Dublin's win over Roscommon. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cormac Costello nets a penalty in Dublin's win over Roscommon. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

NO shocks, very little controversy apart from Roscommon’s concession of three penalties, and by the end this Allianz Football League opener had taken on all the airs and graces of a pre-championship challenge match.

Which may be precisely how some people will view these opening league rounds as the GAA emerges from lockdown.

The only major source of contention was the decision to award Dublin two penalties for fouls outside the rectangle that were adjudged to have prevented goal chances.

Stand-in Dublin boss Mick Galvin was more than a little bemused by the new rule while, in his post-match comments, Roscommon manager Anthony Cunnigham was even more animated in his opposition to a change that could have a seismic impact, if this early example becomes the norm.

The happiest player leaving Dr Hyde Park was surely Cormac Costello, who filled his boots to the tune 1-13 – which would have been enough to draw the contest by itself, although his Dublin colleagues chipped in with an additional nine points to record a very routine victory over the Rossies.

Mind you, it could have been an even more productive afternoon for Costello, who nailed his first penalty, struck the woodwork with his second and then, with the final kick of the game, fired his third well over – whether by accident or design wasn’t entirely clear, although it’s quite likely he was feeling a certain sympathy for the hosts.

It had been six months since Roscommon timorously exited the Connacht championship to Mayo; and five months since Dublin added the latest chapter to their never-ending saga of success, the six-in-a-row.

Since then, nothing has happened and yet everything has, Dublin’s previously unimpeachable reputation sullied by that ill-advised ‘lockdown’ gathering in Innisfails.

The legacy of that incident could be seen in the absence of Dessie Farrell, still serving his 12-week suspension, and so the bainisteoir’s bib passed to Mick Galvin.

The announced Dublin team had originally contained 13 of the line-up that started against Mayo in December, the promoted duo of Evan Comerford and Cormac Costello taking the places of record-breaking skipper Stephen Cluxton and Dublin’s all-time top scorer, Dean Rock.

But, in a throwback to the Jim Gavin era, there followed a late slew of changes before throw-in, with Comerford, Mick Fitzsimons, Jonny Cooper and Seán Bulger all dropping out… all of which meant league debuts for St Sylvester’s netminder Michael Shiel and Raheny defender Seán McMahon as well as rare starts for Tom Lahiff and Dara Mullin.

What transpired was, in many ways, entirely predictable: on a cool and windy May afternoon, the game lacked summer intensity but everything appeared to come that much more easily to the visitors.

True, Roscommon led on three separate occasions in the opening exchanges and then drew level after 11 minutes when Enda Smith struck impressively with the outside of his right boot at the graveyard end.

Just a minute earlier, however, Diarmuid Murtagh had fisted against the upright when a goal seemingly beckoned, the centre of Dublin’s defence having been cut open in surprisingly easy fashion.

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They needed the tonic of a green flag and, as the half progressed, Dublin grew ever stronger and Costello’s tally soared to spectacular levels. By half time, the Whitehall scoresmith already had 1-8 after his name, including 1-6 from a penalty, five frees and a ‘mark’, along with a brace from play. Costello was also responsible for Dublin’s first wide, in first-half stoppage time; their only other misses were a couple of Paddy Small efforts, one hitting a post, the other falling short.

Roscommon were already trailing by three when, on the cusp of the water break, their task took on herculean levels when Paddy Small was impeded as he made a beeline for goal. It was just outside the large rectangle but inside the new ‘penalty’ zone for goal-preventing fouls that are deemed cynical; cue the double-whammy punishment from Tipp whistler Derek O’Mahoney of a black card for Brian Stack and a spot-kick, calmly tucked home by Costello.

It could have been worse for the Rossies; ‘keeper Colm Lavin saved with his legs to deny Costello again in the 33rd minute.

At the other end, Roscommon stayed in vague touch via some eye-catching points from Niall Daly and the Murtagh brothers, but it all carried the air of damage limitation as they headed for their dressing-room trailing 1-12 to 0-9.

There was more penalty drama on the restart when Fergal Lennon tripped Mullin near the end-line; again O’Mahony punished on the double, with Lennon black-carded, but this time Costello’s penalty rattled the upright.

The 14 men of Roscommon actually outscored Dublin over the next ten minutes, briefly reducing the deficit to four points at one stage, but a soporific second half was shrouded in inevitability throughout.

Starting with Brian Fenton’s solitary point in the 59th minute, the visitors outscored Ros by 0-8 to 0-4 down the home straight, Ciarán Kilkenny finishingly strongly with a hat-trick from play, while Ciaran Murtagh chipped away impressively at the far end.

In the final play, Niall Daly’s foot block on a Fenton piledriver was punished by a penalty, which Costello fired over. The final whistle then sounded to silence; one wonders if there would have been much of a cheer even with a crowd.

SCORERS – Dublin: C Costello 1-13 (1-1 pen, 8f, 1m), C Kilkenny 0-4 (1m), P Small 0-2, T Lahiff, D Mullin, B Fenton 0-1 each. Roscommon: D Smith (5f), C Murtagh (2f) 0-6 each, D Smith, D Murtagh, N Daly, E Nolan 0-1 each.

DUBLIN – M Shiel; S McMahon, D Byrne, E Murchan; J McCarthy, J Small, R McDaid; B Fenton, T Lahiff; N Scully, C O’Callaghan, D Mullin; P Small, C Costello, C Kilkenny. Subs: M Fitzsimons for McMahon (50), C Basquel or Mullin (50), C McHugh for P Small (57), P Ó Cofaigh Byrne for Lahiff (57), E Lowndes for McCarthy (66), R Basquel for O’Callaghan (66), P McMahon for Murchan (69).

ROSCOMMON – C Lavin; D Murray, G Patterson, F Lennon; C Hussey, N Daly, B Stack; E Nolan, S Killoran; N Kilroy, C Cregg, E Smith; D Smith, D Murtagh, C Murtagh. Subs: C Devaney for Kilroy (ht), C McKeon for Cregg (41), C Daly for Stack (46), D Neary for Lennon (50), C Cox for D Murtagh (50), H Darcy for Killoran (60), R Hughes for C Daly (67).

REF – D O’Mahoney (Tipperary)

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