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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019

9th national title for Jim Gavin, Galway prove they belong at this level and Dublin's injury worries

5 talking points after Dublin regained the league title they lost a year ago.

Ciarán Kilkenny celebrate after the game with teh division one trophy Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park

1. Ninth national title for Dubs under Gavin

IT’S REMARKABLE TO think that before Jim Gavin took charge of Dublin in 2013, they hadn’t won a league title since 1993 – when Gavin himself was a player.

Like Kilkenny during their pomp in the last decade, Dublin have been extremely consistent in the league in recent seasons and they’ve made it to the last six finals, winning five of them.

They’ve now delivered five leagues, five Leinsters and four All-Irelands since 2013 and the dominance doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon with youngsters like Brian Howard and Colm Basquel emerging.

Stephen Cluxton receives the trophy from John Horan Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

2. Dublin still hungry for success 

For a team so accustomed to winning, the hunger Dublin showed in the last 20 minutes with the game on the line was impressive.

They were reduced to 14 men in the 50th minute when Niall Scully picked up second yellow card and shortly afterwards Barry McHugh curled over a free and Shane Walsh kicked a stunning score to bring the Tribesmen level.

But Dublin outscored Galway by 0-6 to 0-2 in the final 20 minutes, despite playing against the breeze with a man less. Time and time again they can go to the well and do just enough to get over the line.

Brian Howard and Eoghan Kerin Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

3. Galway match Dublin on the physicality stakes

Galway weren’t overly defensive today but they did match Dublin physically all over the park.

Kevin Walsh’s gameplan sees their entire half-forward line drop deep, with one or two forwards left in the attacking half of the field. It worked well for the majority of the game until Galway tired late on, the numbers breaking forward dropped and the scores from play dried up.

Galway scored just three points from open play in the second-half and they were fine individual scores from the excellent pair Damien Comer (2) and Shane Walsh.

The Connacht side didn’t have the attacking options from the bench to worry Dublin late on, but the return to fitness of Michael Daly and Sean Armstrong, along with the Corofin contingent will rectify that come the summer.

4. Dublin’s last competitive game for a while

This may well be the last formidable opponents Dublin face until the Super 8s in the middle of July.

The paucity of the challenge in Leinster means the All-Ireland champions will have to rely on intense training matches to keep them sharp until they likely reach the last eight of the competition in three and a half months’ time.

Dublin will release their players back to the clubs for most of April and then begin the heavy training with the aim to peak in the late summer. They are carrying plenty of injuries at this stage, with Jack McCaffrey, Paul Flynn and Cian O’Sullivan all fighting to be fit for the beginning of the Leinster SFC.

James McCarthy leaves the pitch Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Bernard Brogan is a long-term absentee as he battles back from ACL surgery, while it’s still unclear whether Diarmuid Connolly will return to the squad as he takes some time away.

James McCarthy was substituted after sustaining an apparent hamstring injury in the first-half today. Paul Mannion and Michael Darragh Macauley were also brought off after picking up knocks, but they’re not believed to be as serious.

5. Galway head for Mayo clash full of confidence

The date Galway would have pencilled in all year is the Connacht quarter-final against Mayo on 13 May.

They went through the regulation phase of the league unbeaten before falling four points short in the decider, but in many ways nothing has changed. The tie against Mayo remains the defining game in Galway’s year, and should they lose it they’d face a tricky road to make into the Super 8s.

But Tribesmen boss Walsh must be extremely pleased with how the season has transpired for them so far. New players like Sean Andy O Ceallaigh, Sean Kelly and Peter Cooke proved they belong at this level, while Comer and Shane Walsh continue to take their games to new heights.

Watch the match highlights below:

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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