It proved a case of ‘mission accomplished’ for Dublin in Croke Park on Sunday afternoon as they pulled away in the second-half to complete a comfortable seven-point victory over Louth in their final group game in Division 2 of the Allianz National Football League.
In doing so, the Dubs secured a welcome return to the top flight following last year’s relegation and can look forward to a league final against table-toppers Derry next weekend.
While there was much excitement generated by the announcement of the return of both Stephen Cluxton and Paul Mannion to the Dublin bench, unfortunately that excitement wasn’t translated onto the field of play, in what was a dour affair for the large part.
The opening passages set the tone with the visitors happy to concede territory and possession and Dublin unable to take advantage.
As a result, goalmouth action was limited with Louth taking the lead through a well-worked point from Ciarán Downey.
The hosts threatened sporadically and overtook their opponents through straightforward points from Killian O’Gara and Colm Basquel.
A stalemate of sorts ensued with Dublin’s frustration translating into some uncharacteristic wides and they were fortunate not to concede a goal as the contest evolved when Conall McKeever’s low effort rebounded to safety off the upright.
Basquel and Louth goalkeeper James Califf traded points to ensure an 0-3 stalemate with Dublin missing a wonderful opportunity to find the net towards the end of the half as Con O’Callaghan fired over from eight yards after a trademark burst from deep by James McCarthy.
The half ended with Downey popping over a free to leave the score at a suitably uninspired 0-5 to 0-4 for the hosts.
Dublin looked far more composed in the third quarter as they made a decisive push for home through points from Brian Fenton, Seán Bugler, Daire Newcombe, Basquel and Cormac Costello to stretch six points clear.
Indeed, Newcombe and David Byrne showed well throughout but they were powerless to prevent Louth from handing themselves a lifeline in the 48th minute as Liam Jackson eluded Michael Fitzsimons before planting a precise finish across David O’Hanlon.
The visitors failed to build on that score however as Dublin responded through an excellent McCarthy point and they regained their six-point lead through a Costello free and substitute Lorcan O’Dell.
By this stage, Louth’s defending was becoming increasingly loose but Dublin failed to take advantage by hitting the net.
However the returning Mannion, Dean Rock and Paddy Small all added late points to complete a routine victory for the hosts by the final whistle.
Scorers – Dublin: C Basquel 0-3, C Costello (1f), S Bugler 0-2 each, J McCarthy, B Fenton, D Newcombe, K O’Gara, C O’Callaghan, P Small, L O’Dell, P Mannion, D Rock (‘45’) 0-1 apiece. Louth: l Jackson 1-1, C Downey 0-3 (2f), J Califf (f), D McConnon 0-1 each.
Dublin: D O’Hanlon; D Newcombe, D Byrne, M Fitzsimons; J Small, E Murchan, L Gannon; B Fenton, J McCarthy; C Basquel, C Kilkenny, S Bugler; C Costello, C O’Callaghan, K O’Gara. Subs: P Small for O’Gara (24), T Lahiff for Murchan (half-time), P Mannion for Basquel (53), L O’Dell for Costello (61), R McGarry for Bugler (65), D Rock for O’Callaghan (71).
Louth: J Califf; D Corcoran, P Lynch, D McKenny; L Grey, C Murphy, N Sharkey; C Early, T Durnin; C McKeever, L Jackson, C Grimes; D McConnon, C Downey, R Burns. Subs: C Lennon for McKenny (44), T Jackson for McKeever (44), C McCaul for Burns (53), B Duffy for Sharkey (56), J Hughes for McConnon (66).
Referee: Paul Faloon (Down).