Champions will need Cluxton in Tyrone semi.
Byline: PAUL CAFFREY
WITH all the fanfare, it would've been easy for Stephen Cluxton, above, to be distracted and have a bit of an off day on Saturday.
In fact he had one of his best-ever games for Dublin as he broke the Championship appearance record.
His focus was absolute, his kick-outs were fantastic and he made two goal-stopping saves. He's a remarkable individual in terms of what he's brought to this team.
Sadly, however, and in front of a packed house, two games that had good potential turned out to be completely one-sided damp squibs.
Tyrone were very impressive in dispatching Armagh and Dublin did what had to be done against Monaghan, who badly lacked ambition.
Neither game developed into a contest, a shame after last week's thriller between Mayo and Roscommon.
Looking at it in context, Armagh will play in Division 3 next year while Monaghan needed their best game to trouble Dublin, who needed to be below par. It didn't happen.
Granted, there's a gap between Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone, possibly Mayo and then the rest. But I'm not concerned about what it means for the Super 8s next year because they'll take on a life of their own.
Teams will be guaranteed at least one home game and one in Croke Park - though obviously for Dublin that means two at Headquarters, a distinct advantage.
At least the semi-final should be a cracker. Dublin and Tyrone are clocking up 20 points plus per game.
Tyrone's primary problem will be dealing with Cluxton's kick outs. I can't see them repeating Monaghan's error - I don't know why teams keep doing it, but give Dublin every kick out and you'll lose.
No team is good enough to allow the Dubs to run at them. The flip side is Dublin can't allow Tyrone a free run from their own restarts either, it will be very tactical.
Dublin look to be in a very good place. Credit to Jim Gavin, hhis he looks to have got timing just right.
They were a good month behind in terms of last year's schedule. But that was purposely done, they would've felt they would be in the semifinals with potentially their two biggest battles to come.
was th They'll have Diarmuid Connolly back, while Paul Flynn and Michael Darragh Macauley returned on Saturday.
Jim has a dilemma in terms of best using the serious depth of talent at his disposal - but Mickey Harte, inset, also has real talent on his bench.
David Mulgrew came in and scored 2-1 against Armagh while Darren McCurry and Ronan O'Neill are good players who would start in most teams.
There'll be a lot of talk about whether Diarmuid starts. Do you hold him back? It depends on how he's going in training. Jim has a serious decision to make but Diarmuid's jersey has been thrown around and no-one has really come in and said, 'This is my jersey now'.