There were worrying signs for Dublin at Parnell Park on Saturday night, as Pat Gilroy’s new-look side fell to a five-point defeat to National League champions Derry.
It was the manner of the defeat rather than the margin that will cause the new manager a few grey hairs, however. Dublin were completely outplayed for much of the game, and but for a late Ger Brennan goal, they could have found themselves on the end of an embarrassing score line.
Derry, who had Eoin Bradley in sublime form, led by nine points, 0-18 to 0-9, with 14 minutes remaining before the Dubs hit 1-2 in the dying minutes to save face. But it was nothing more than cosmetic.
The damage was done before that. Dublin trailed 0-9 to 0-7 at the break, but there was little sign of the carnage to come. Derry hit five points without reply before Conal Keaney pointed in the 49th minute, their first score in 14 second half minutes.
Damian Cassidy’s charges were in control throughout the field, with Enda Muldoon and Fergal Doherty completely dominant against Ciaran Whelan and Ross McConnell.
Dublin’s rookie defence creaked throughout, as Paddy Andrews, Denis Bastic and Alan Hubbard struggled to deal with the superb Derry attack, which was inspired by Paddy Bradley in the first half before he was forced off at the break with concussion.
Paul Murphy, who finished with 0-3 from play from centre-forward, caused Brennan serious trouble before he was yellow carded for a foul with 12 minutes remaining. Enda Lynn, the Derry half-forward was a constant threat and caused serious problems with a series of probing runs.
But Eoin Bradley will get all the plaudits for his sensational display after his brother had left the fray. The younger of the two Bradley boys finished with 0-6, with two points coming in the second half from sweetly struck sideline balls.
The refrain from Gilroy has been that he is continuing to experiment with new faces, but on this evidence he will be looking forward to the return of his Kilmacud Crokes contingent after the All-Ireland club final on Tuesday.
Only Bernard Brogan who finished with five points [0-2f] can hold his head up high after a dismal team performance, while David Henry was solid in defence and Conal Keaney, who played in fits and starts, did contribute three points from play.
Truth be told, the Dublin forward made little headway against a Derry defence brilliantly led by Niall McCusker at full-back.
Indeed, Derry could have been further ahead at the break had they not missed a number of goal chances. They had two great goal chances in the first half. Stephen Cluxton, the Dublin goalkeeper did well to deny Doherty with a fine save, but the resulting ’45 was beautifully struck over the bar by Enda Muldon.
Five minutes later, in the 22nd minute, Paddy Bradley could have had Derry coasting, but his shot, after rounding the goalkeeper, was blocked by a combination of Paddy Andrews and Ciaran Whelan. Lynn had another cheeky effort on goal brilliantly saved by Cluxton in the second half.
After 23 minutes, the sides were level at 0-6 apiece, but Derry finished the half stronger, with Alan Brogan brought on to replace the ineffective Kevin Bonner.
But Derry never looked back after that point, and the gulf in experience and class between the sides was greater than Derry’s winning margin.
Dublin: S Cluxton, P Andrews, D Bastic, A Hubbard, J Brogan, G Brennan, B Cahill, C Whelan, R Mc Connell, D Connolly, C Keaney, D Henry, B Kelly, K Bonner, B Brogan.
Derry: J Deighan, K McGuckian, N McCusker, S M Lockhart, P Cartin, B McGoldrick, S L McGoldrick, F Doherty, E Muldoon, E Lynn, P Murphy, P Young, P Bradley, E Bradley, B McGuigan