Four minutes and 38 seconds.
hat was the length of time this year’s Leinster final existed as a contest. The extent of Kildare’s hope.
Of all the Leinster final maulings Dublin have inflicted over the last dozen years, all we could say for certain was that this was the most recent.
Time was, Dublin celebrated Leinster titles like countries celebrated independence.
Nothing doing in Croke Park today only for the Dubs to take their trinkets and sheepishly move towards higher peaks.
James McCarthy even challenged Stephen Cluxton for the most understated captain’s speech, though he did note the “soul searching” the Dubs underwent after relegation from Division 1.
Clearly, they found something.
4:38: that was the reading on the clock in Croke Park the moment Ciarán Kilkenny hit the net for the first of five goals in an electrifying first half performance from Dublin, the quality and energy of which will have been noted well beyond the province they have long since turned into their own personal fiefdom.
Early though it was, it was a moment we all feared.
Saturday wasn’t a good day for proponents of the provincial football championships but it was a far, far worse one for Kildare.
Even the most optimistic Lilywhites had accepted that if they were to break Dublin’s cycle as provincial overlords here, they needed many good things to happen for them this evening in Croke Park.
A good start was prominent among them.
After a little very early promise here, they collapsed in on themselves.
The underlying fear for Kildare was that for all their having beaten Dublin earlier this year in Newbridge, that they would revert to type when the Dubs had their periods of dominance.
Too often in the past, they’ve reacted poorly and allowed a small bleed of scores turn into a haemorrhage. All too easily and often, the concession of a goal has turned into 1-4 or 2-3 and the game tilted beyond them.
The problem here was that Dublin’s dominance wasn’t confined to any specific period of time. It was total.
And they were in the right form to maximise it.
Not that Kildare helped themselves. Far from it.
Quite what the plan hatched by their Mount Rushmore management team was, we might never know.
But the players failed to get any useful pressure on the ball in midfield and then, most damagingly of all, weren’t of a mind to give their full-back line a dig out until it was too late.
Cormac Costello had already scored Dublin’s third goal, via a vicious body swerve that took out goalkeeper and defender, by the time James Murray took up preventative positioning on the ‘D’.
It should be noted here that Dublin’s intent was clear.
Right from the throw-in, Costello, Con O’Callaghan and Dean Rock made straight for the edge of Mark Donnellan’s square and stayed there, bursting out into great swathes of space to win possession and turn on goal.
The natural directness of O’Callaghan and Costello, in particular, was in sharp evidence here.
Equally, when Kildare did plan a sweeper in front of that triumvirate, the quality of the Dublin delivery meant it made no odds.
Seán Bugler’s pass to O’Callaghan, who moved with all the menace of a Great White throughout, for Kilkenny’s goal was a perfect example.
As was the assist from Lorcan O’Dell to John Small for Dublin’s fourth, drilled past Donnellan and scored by the 20th minute.
O’Callaghan got his own goal soon after, after a pristinely-timed layoff from Costello and at that moment, the scoreline had the potential to get unseemly.
To his credit, Ben McCormack finished with 0-5 (1m) and Daniel Flynn tried to make things happen by taking on all comers but in that period, when Dublin were white hot, Kildare bought themselves no respite with some awful kicking and wasteful use of possession.
Kildare did win the second half and managed to avoid a more garish scoreline by the concession of further goals. But they were the smallest of mercies.
Dublin: C O’Callaghan 1-5 (0-1m), C Costello 2-1, D Rock 0-4 (4f), C Kilkenny, J Small 1-0 each, B Fenton 0-3, L Gannon 0-2, A Byrne, N Scully 0-1 each.
Kildare: J Hyland 1-4 (0-3f), B McCormack 0-5 (1m), K Feely 0-2 (1m), K Flynn, P Cribbin, D Kirwan, P Woodgate (f) 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: E Comerford; E Murchan, M Fitzsimons, L Gannon; J Small, B Howard, J McCarthy; B Fenton, T Lahiff; S Bugler, C Kilkenny, L O’Dell; C Costello, C O’Callaghan, D Rock. Subs: N Scully for O’Dell (45), C Murphy for Murchan (51 inj), A Byrne for Rock (60), J Cooper for Lahiff (65), B O’Leary for Costello (70)
KILDARE: M Donnellan; S Ryan, M O’Grady, R Houlihan; K Flynn, J Murray, T Archbold; K Feely, K O’Callaghan; A Beirne, B McCormack, P Cribbin; D Kirwan, D Flynn, J Hyland. Subs: D Hyland for Murray (h-t), P Woodgate for Hyland (h-t), P McDermott for Cribbin (49), D Malone for Archbold (60), F Conway for Beirne (68)
REF: P Neilan (Roscommon)
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