Parnell Park in January is strictly for the true believers. All those thousands who throng to the Hill in their blue attire in high Summer give the Donnycarney venue a wide berth in deepest Winter. That said, there was a decent enough crowd there earlier this evening – maybe six or seven thousand – to witness the start of Dublin’s inter-county season for 2008.
I know I’ve been harsh on the Dubs over the past year but, in this renewed ABK era, I recognise that Dublin represent an important component in the Popular Front Against Annual Kerry Celebrations. For that reason (and maybe to help keep the peace with my little Dublings), I might – just might – be prepared to give them an easier time this year. Indeed, at this juncture you could argue (I’m not going to but others have) that, aside from Tyrone, Dublin represent the best chance there is if we’re to see Kerrymen blubbering into their beer next September. They probably represent a better bet at this point in time than our own lads do.
With that in mind, and the prospect of seeing some inter-county action against after a too-long lacuna, The Brother and I, along with a number of our progeny and assorted friends, decided the Dubs were worth a peek this evening. We must have looked like a right horde of Jackeens too as we traipsed up the Malahide Road in the dark and the thought did cross my mind that us two boggers should really have scrawled some kind of disclaimer onto the back of our jackets (lines like “Guilty but insane”, “Paying the mortgage is not enough, it would seem” or “It’s only for the chisellers that I’m out” might have done the trick in this respect.)
If you haven’t already heard the news, Dublin cantered home this evening, winning by 2-12 to 0-9 in a match they never looked remotely like losing (RTE’s match report is here). Although you could see Micko’s influence in terms of some of the slick moves that Wicklow tried, more often than not they ended up fumbling it and losing possession or kicking it away aimlessly. That said, Stephen Cluxton made a number of good saves and, had any of those chances hit the net, it could have been a different kind of game.
As it was, Dublin’s experimental lineup looked well in charge throughout, with MOTM Shane Ryan pulling the strings all evening at midfield. He’s such a bull of a man and is one of a minority of midfielders in the modern game who makes intelligent use of possession virtually all the time, a point that a contributor to this blog noted last Summer. Again and again, he drove forward, pulling the cover towards him before delivering a good pass to a well-placed colleague. One such move ended in Dublin’s second goal, scored by Paul Burke, which ended the match as a contest. It goes without saying that Ryan will, once again, be a key man for the Dubs this year.
The other notable fact was that three Brogans were on the field for Dublin before the end. Bernard played from the start, with Alan and younger brother Paul joining proceedings before the end. All three will feature again over the course of the year. None of the St Vincents lads played tonight (nor are they likely to while Vinnie’s remain in the club championship), nor did the likes of Whelo or Mark Vaughan, with the latter’s dead-ball skills badly missed.
I’d say Pillar and his pals would have been happy enough with how their charges performed tonight. Despite all the pre-season fumbles, mistakes and mistimed moves, there seemed to be a fair bit of hunger evident in the way Dublin played and it’s obvious that they view this as a do-or-die year for them. As ever, significant obstacles will lie ahead of them, with Meath in Leinster and Tyrone in the semi-final the most obvious hurdles they need to overcome if they are to qualify for their first final meeting with Kerry since 1985. (Sure, Kerry could stumble too but I, for one, wouldn’t bet on it). Beating the Goat Suckers in early January doesn’t mean they’ll be able to soften the Kerrymen’s cough come September but they have to start somewhere.
My eldest (who turns seven next weekend) was well impressed in any event and got plenty of opportunities to wave the flag she’d got on the way to the ground. Here was one such example, well into the second half:
But crunch championship encounters (for ourselves, as well as the Dubs) are for another time later in the year, when the days are longer and the weather is more conducive to being out and about following the action. It was cold up there in the stand in Parnell Park this evening, bloody cold, in fact, especially when the crowd started to leave ten minutes or so before the end, which made the icy wind seem even more cutting than it had been up till then. Like I said, this was one for the true believers, just like Mayo’s opener in the FBD will be tomorrow.