Dublin leave Derry gasping
Derry 1-10 Dublin 3-19: It's perhaps a tad too early to attach blue ribbons to the Sam Maguire Cup but on the evidence offered at Croke Park yesterday, that would amount to nothing more than a postponement of the inevitable.
A Derry side that had flourished during an impressive run in Division One of the Allianz Football League suddenly floundered, brought to their knees by the efficiency, sophistication and cutting edge of Jim Gavin's side to such an extent that today a raft of other teams with hitherto credible championship aspirations now find themselves burdened by considerable apprehension.
Brian McIver's side certainly did not lose their many-sided qualities overnight, it's just that they were never given the opportunity to unveil them on this occasion as the Dubs retained their league title with a swagger.
They not so much stifled their opponents as reached for the jugular and squeezed the life of them in a merciless pounding which underlined that their own league itinerary to date amounted to nothing more than shadow boxing.
By the end of the first-quarter the danger sirens were sounding for the Oak Leaf county. At the half-way stage when they were seven points adrift at 0-13 to 1-3 things were looking even more ominous and by the time referee Cormac Reilly sounded for full-time, the humiliation was complete.
Redeeming features were few and far between on what was a mortifying occasion for anyone with Oak Leaf blood in their veins.
Chrissy McKaigue and Gerard O'Kane strove manfully to stem the tide, Fergal Doherty tried his best against insurmountable odds in the middle of the park, Emmet McGuckin and Cailean O'Boyle threatened occasionally in attack but quite simply in some respects Derry were out of their depth.
Yet all the statistics were not weighted in Dublin's favour.
Derry missed no fewer than seven clear-cut goal chances and had even one or two of these found the target, the outcome might have been more tolerable for the Oak Leafers but certainly not changed.
Dublin not so much controlled possession as claimed virtual total ownership of the ball throughout the first-half.
Operating with machine-like precision, they sustained an onslaught on the Derry posts, the only surprising aspect of which was that they did not have more to show for their efforts on the scoreboard.
One stark statistic underlined the supreme authority wielded by Jim Gavin's side. By the 20th minute they had pocketed nine points with Derry left to derive meagre comfort from Cailean O'Boyle's fifth-minute goal.
With Michael Daragh Macauley and Cian O'Sullivan majestic at midfield, Johnny Cooper and James McCarthy breaking forward at pace and Eoghan O'Gara inflicting torture on their beleaguered defence, Derry were left gasping for air.
By the half-way stage Bernard Brogan had posted five points, four from frees, for the metropolitan side but it was O'Gara's tireless energy and ability to retain possession when almost suffocated by red and white shirts that proved central to Dublin's scoring prowess.
When the willing McGuckin pirated Derry's first point in the 24th minute, it was light relief yet despite garnering only scraps of possession, his team, still managed to spurn two golden goal opportunities prior to the break.
Not that this had the slightest impact on Dublin's soaring morale.
Ahead by 0-13 to 1-3, they merely engaged a higher gear for the second half to leave the Oak Leaf men wallowing in their slipstream.
By the 46th minute they were 11 points in front after Bernard Brogan had rocketed in their second goal before joining his brother Alan and Paul Flynn to whip over points as Dublin turned the screw with Derry, despite manager McIver deploying a raft of substitutes, unable by then to mount a worthwhile damage limitation exercise.
Such was the latitude offered to the Dubs that they were able to bring invention, variety and indeed arrogance to their play, sweeping down the wings and barrelling through the centre as Derry desperately sought a modicum of credibility.
It was not to be found on this occasion, though.
Kevin Johnston, who battled to the end, and the big-hearted McGuckin managed to pilfer points during an all-too-brief spell when Dublin's concentration dropped but when Kevin McManamon pounced for Dublin's second goal in the 54th minute, confirmation was provided that a rout was on the cards.
And so it ensued. Doherty and Lynch managed to steal in for points but as manager Gavin emptied his bench, Dublin's ferocity remained high as peripheral players maximised the opportunity to send out a pre-championship selection message.
No one did this better than Darragh Nelson, who helped himself to two points.
But it was Diarmuid Connolly, elegant and composed throughout the game, who emphasised the yawning gap that separated the sides when he almost casually glided in the winners' third goal in the 69th minute.
It was very much a case of insult being added to injury from a Derry perspective, a savaging of their hard-won reputation that might require a period of recovery.
And with an Ulster championship shoot-out with Donegal looming next month, time is certainly not on their side in their efforts to undertake remedial action.
Derry: T Mallon; O Duffy, C McKaigue, D McBride; K Johnson 0-1, G O'Kane 0-2, A McAlynn; F Doherty 0-1, P Bradley; E Lynn, M Lynch 0-2, C McFaul; B Heron, E McGuckin 0-2, C O'Boyle 1-1. Subs:C McAtamney for McAlynn (28), E Bradley 0-1 for Heron (28), D Mullan for P Bradley (46), D Brown for Duffy (50), M Craig for Johnston (66), Holly for Lynn (66).
Dublin: S Cluxton 0-1 ('45); J Cooper 0-1, R O'Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, N Devereaux, K Nolan; M D Macauley, C O'Sullivan; P Flynn 0-3, P Andrews, D Connolly 1-2; A Brogan 0-2, E O'Gara 0-2, B Brogan 1-6. Subs: K McManamon for Andrews (28), D Byrne for Nolan (44), M Fitzimmons for McMahon (60), C Redden for O'Gara (60), D Nelson 0-2 for O'Sullivan (62).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).