JOE Brolly’s verbal sparring with former Dublin senior football Ciarán Whelan was a highlight of RTÉ’s coverage of Dublin’s comprehensive defeat of Cork on Saturday evening.
Attempting to deflect away any notion of Dublin’s seemingly straightforward march to a fifth All-Ireland title, former midfielder Whelan had his hands full with his fellow pundit from county Derry.
“Seriously, they (Dublin players) are all quarterbacks and play the game with joy and are totally unselfish but make no mistake, Cork are a good team,” Brolly commented on RTÉ.
“They played with pace and tried to go out and win the game but were just taken out by such a superior group of footballers. The lightning speed of Dublin’s counter-attacks may not be apparent on TV but they are here (Croke Park).
“They overwhelmed Cork as I think they will do the same to everyone else. Cork played well and lost by 13 points?
"From play, the managed 5-15 from a possible 7-17 and those efficiency ratings have never before been seen in Gaelic football.”
To be fair to Joanne Cantwell, the Sunday Game presenter made one of her many valid points to Ciarán Whelan, stating that Cork played very well and there were only four points in it at one stage.
“We know that Dublin is a good team but you think they are faultless,” Whelan began.
“I don’t think that but Ciarán you have to stop with these negative waves, you are bringing me down and I’m feeling good on a Saturday evening,” Brolly interjected.
“We had a good game but I wouldn’t say it was a brilliant performance by Dublin,” countered Whelan only for Brolly to answer back with “You won by 13 points!”
Brolly continued: “They are like the All Blacks, sometimes they take a while to get there but in the end, they just blitz you out of it. Tyrone tried that containment game against them in 2017 and lost by 12 points.
"Dublin has advanced since then and I must say it was a pleasure to watch the game in the context of such a good Cork performance.”
“Cork came up here today after years of criticism and relegation to Division 3 so I feel a 13-point defeat doesn’t do them justice if I am being honest,” Whelan argued.
“The goals near the end, ok, it finished them off. That’s what champions do, they finish teams off.
"In terms of overall performance, Cork will be extremely happy and particularly during the third quarter when they stayed with Dublin right up to the 60th minute.”
Away from the studio verbal sparring, man of the match Jack McCaffrey was Dublin’s go to guy during several difficult spells before breaking loose in the final 10 minutes and repeatedly carving open Cork’s tiring defence.
When asked if it felt like a 13-point win, the Dublin player dutifully managed to play down his side’s achievement which will have no doubt pleased manager Jim Gavin.
“No, not all,” McCaffrey deadpanned.
“We conceded 1-17 out there and it was an absolute sweltering day. It was only in the last few minutes that we got two or three goals and managed to pull away.
"It was hammer and thongs and there will be a few sore bodies over the next couple of days.
“Any day I get a goal is a good day for me as it is close the eyes and hope for the best. We got some great finishes, great opportunism and great work off the bench.
"We kept going until the last minute and that’s what opened up the gap in the end.
“Cork played very well but just came up against a team at a different level,” Brolly added.
“They are at a different level to everybody though so there are a lot of positives to take out of it. They are in Division 3 and you gotta play these boys two or three teams to get a feel for what it is like.
"They are at a different level. Cork should really have a go at Tyrone next week because they have retreated back into that defensive shell from two years ago. It is an opportunity for Cork next week.”
We will leave the final word to RTÉ commentator Dessie Dolan who summed up Dublin’s current setup with alarming clarity.
“The leadership and the quality that this Dublin team has shown with Jack McCaffrey, Brian Fenton, Ciarán Kilkenny, Johnny Cooper and James McCarthy back in the squad is incredible,” Dolan gushed.
“The strength in depth is really incredible and all of a sudden, Dublin has all their players coming back at the right time, coming into the Super 8’s into a team already high on confidence.”
High on confidence indeed and surely only a matter of time before, despite what Jim Gavin, Jack McCaffrey or Ciarán Whelan will tell you, Sam Maguire returns to its perch on Jones’ Road.