What ever number of Dublin players finished off the game, it will be remembered by some for all the wrong reasons. Sledging seems to be at the top of a long list of bullet points, which is disheartening based on everything else that was on display in HQ on this warm August evening.
Officiating inaccuracies have become a normal talking point all too often now. But wrong decisions that ultimately cost a team a chunk of their workforce are never welcome, win or lose.
But the fact still remains, Dublin’s roster of talent proved a lesson well learned. Proved that it is indeed possible to play against a negative style and still control a game. There is a counteraction that other teams can sit up and view.
For most, and indeed the select few that deem a player fit for man of the match, have chosen a man that embodied the spirit and ethos that Jim Gavin has brought to Dublin’s football ranks.
In the Leinster Final, with James McCarthy missing from the team sheet, Castleknock’s Ciaran Kilkenny displayed the diversity that Gavin clearly knew he possessed by slotting into a wing back position.
On Saturday, if it was at all possible, Ciaran reprised that role, and if anything trebled his work rate. His distribution was pristine, his movement insightful. He knew where every man, including the opposition, was at any given time, or at least where they should have been as he orchestrated directions to his team mates as Dublin advanced in waves when the opportunities struck during the 70 plus minutes.
Although it may be short lived if James McCarthy is indeed available for Dublin’s Semi Final showdown with Kerry, it’s comforting to see a player slot in and take a game by the throat.
“I don’t mind playing anywhere on the pitch. Underage I played full back to corner forward so anywhere I will do a job for the team.”
And despite the visible negativity exuded towards Donegal post game, Ciaran was more than happy to credit them when talking to Sky Sports.
“They are unbelievable on the counter attack and Ryan McHugh is some footballer and Michael Murphy” he admitted.
“We know Donegal are a savage team, talented footballers”.
What Dublin proved again, as they’ve done now on more than one occasion, is that the waiting game is sometimes more important the the resulting attack. And to their credit Donegal never closed up and kept squeezing right to the end.
“It’s about being patient and waiting for the right opportunity because they are so good in the tackle” he added.
“You have to wait for the right opportunity and hopefully get a score because it is so hard to break them down”.
As was the nature of this game, there were plenty of bruised and battered casualties as they left the playing surface and down the tunnel. The intensity, combined with the rare dead heat in Drumcondra on Saturday evening sapped energy levels more than usual. But that’s what championship football is all about, no?
“I really enjoyed that game of football. I am exhausted now and would say I lost four or five kilos. I’ll put the feet up now, delighted with that.”
“I will have to do a few ice baths now over the next few days and get ready for Kerry in a few weeks’ time.”