With 63 minutes gone against Offaly, Kildare were leading by eight points (18-10). At the same stage in the following game, Dublin were ten points clear of Westmeath (19-9).
It had taken Kildare longer to shake off their opponents but by the latter stages of the second half, they had achieved the same thing as Dublin – they were doing what was expected of them: winning comfortably.
Had both games ended at that point, the post-match analysis might have been a lot different, certainly for Kildare. Despite the one-sided nature of both contests, there was a flurry of scores in the closing stages. Dublin were still ravenous, chalking up 1-3 as the full-time whistle approached but would they have been as ruthless were it not for the influx of subs?
Kildare, as you might expect from a side so flush with youth, began to coast as the finish line appeared on the horizon. Their passing became sloppy and their powers of concentration deserted them as Offaly picked off some late scores. The Faithful attack had their first goal chance of the game and managed to win a penalty in the 70th minute – a decision that may not have gone their way if it would have had a bearing on the outcome.
Ken Casey coolly slotted home the spot kick to leave Kildare sweating a little entering injury-time but just when they needed it, sub Seanie Johnston popped up with an insurance score.
Had Dublin coasted to the line in the same manner, who would have been surprised? They had less trouble with Westmeath than Kildare had with Offaly but the Dubs displayed the kind of ruthless streak that makes many fear for their future opponents. Kildare, never known for being unmerciful, are deemed to be ill-equipped to bridge the 13-point gap that separated the sides when they met in the league in early March.
In some quarters of Kildare, there is a genuine fear that Dublin might inflict a similar demolition in the championship. Although the league was a major success for Kildare this year, too many find it too hard to forget that round four hammering at Croke Park.
In a county that craves success, Kildare fans recognise the quality and the quantity of their near neighbours yet they remain impatient for championship silverware. While it might be acceptable to come up short against Dublin, a sixth straight year without a trophy will be reason to question the team and its management again. It is in this Catch-22 scenario that Kildare operate. As much as the Lilies have prospered in the qualifier system the last five seasons, they are as doomed as the vast majority of their Leinster counterparts in the current provincial structure.
Getting past Dublin has always been a problem for Kildare teams and the current side, which is being refashioned before our eyes this season, have had the same problems that their peers had. Before they became legends across the plains of Kildare, Glenn Ryan and co perished many times in the capital.
It is two years since the sides last met in the championship and in the year that they became All-Ireland champions, Dublin needed a controversial last minute free to overcome Kildare en route to a Leinster final. Two years before that, Kildare did everything but win a rip-roaring provincial decider.
The parallels with the nearly men of the early ‘90s are obvious but the similarities in the performances of Kildare and Dublin in this year’s Leinster quarter-finals were lost on a lot of people.
Kildare were every bit as accurate against Offaly as Dublin were against Westmeath and the Lilies’ defence was just as mean as the Dubs. Offaly had more possession than Westmeath yet had the exact same number of shots – 23 – which shows that the Kildare defence were better at preventing their opponents working an opening. Given that Dublin don’t play a blanket defence, it’s perhaps not surprising that Westmeath found it easier to get their shots away.
The Offaly attack didn’t get nearly as much credit as they should have for the quality of their shooting against Kildare. Their shooting return (57 per cent) was actually ahead of Dublin’s (55 per cent). Given that they had just 23 shots compared to Dublin’s 42, it was a notable achievement. Their attacking stats were helped in no small way by a rich return in the final ten minutes, when Kildare virtually handed them 1-2.
Just as Kildare were doing their best to brighten Offaly’s day, Dublin were heaping salt into Westmeath’s wounds. Second half sub Dean Rock added two points and set up a goal in the 16 minutes he spent on the pitch. At the back, Kevin O’Brien and Nicky Devereux helped Dublin maintain their high tempo game while Cormac Costello came into the attack to offer yet another attacking outlet. On a day when Diarmuid Connolly had a bad day in front of goal (he scored just 3 out of 8 shots) Paddy Andrews iced Dublin’s cake with a sublime goal in the penultimate minute.
Just as Offaly had done in the previous game, Dublin picked off some cheap scores at the end to augment their tally.
If the scoreline is to tell you everything then you have to read between the lines to get the full picture. Dublin’s high-octane game means that it’s extremely unlikely that any team will outscore them this year. With an army of high-quality subs available to maintain their style of play from start to finish, the team that beats them will have to score at least one goal if not two. That team will also need to create a lot of chances and secure an above average return (i.e. more than 50 per cent).
Against Offaly, John Doyle scored four of six frees for Kildare. Against Dublin he’ll probably need to kick five if not six of those scores. That kind of a return armed with a Kildare goal, which was not a problem even when they were being filleted in the league, could leave Dublin chasing the game at some stage. Under pressure, it will be interesting to see if Dublin have enough resilience to maintain the form that has taken them this far.
The numbers suggest Dublin will win when they play Kildare on 30 June at Croke Park but they also suggest they could have a serious fight on their hands.
LEINSTER SFC QUARTER-FINAL STATS
Possessions Shots Shot rate Scores Success rate
Dublin 49 42 86% 23 55%
Kildare 42 34 81% 19 56%
Offaly 37 23 62% 13 57%
Westmeath 32 23 72% 9 39%