Dublin moved back into mainstream Championship football, booking their place in the All-Ireland football quarter-finals with a 2-14 to 0-13 win over Louth.
Eoghan O’Gara’s two first-half goals took the wind out of the Wee County’s sails as they tried to recover from the nightmare that was the Leinster final against Meath two weeks previously.
It was another day of agony at Croke Park for Peter Fitzpatrick’s men, but this time they were fairly, squarely and comprehensively beaten.
The Dubs are building game by game, and will feel they have made progress during their trip through the back door, but once again they failed to convince.
However, the fact that they managed a healthy 2-14 despite the relative ineffectiveness of star attacker Bernard Brogan will have encouraged boss Pat Gilroy.
Louth defender John O’Brien enjoyed a triumphant afternoon as Brogan’s marker, restricting him to just one point from play, and that scored in the final minute of the 70.
In front of a crowd of 47,738, Dublin established an early dominance around midfield, where Michael Dara Macauley, Ross McConnell, Bryan Cullen and David Henry gave them a powerful presence.
It was goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton who got them going with the first of his two first-half 45 conversions, and points quickly followed from the Brogan brothers.
It was in the 11th minute that O’Gara drilled home his first goal, drifting past two tackles before unleashing a shot that took a deflection to trick goalkeeper Neil Gallagher.
Louth could only manage three points, all from Brian White frees, in the opening 35 minutes, the first of which lifted the siege temporarily at the beginning of the second quarter.
Cullen charged through to hammer over a couple of points, Cluxton arrowed another 45 between the posts, and on 33 minutes, full-forward O’Gara struck again.
He collected Alan Brogan’s pass out on the right, turned marker Dessie Finnegan and beat Gallagher with a low, angled finish.
Now the Dubs led by 11 points, and while two White frees did reduce the deficit, Louth were looking at an impossible situation, trailing by 2-06 to 0-03 at the break.
They regrouped during the interval, however, and came out for the second half with renewed purpose.
Points from substitutes Declan Byrne and Darren Clarke, along with an Andy McDonnell effort, narrowed the gap to five.
Dublin struggled to get any fluency into their play, but were comfortably able to protect their lead, with Ross McConnell, O’Gara, Bernard Brogan from a free, and Cullen all tagging on points.
Louth knew they were gone long before the finish, but never gave up, and Clarke and Paddy Keenan fired over late scores.
Dublin: S Cluxton (0-2), M Fitzsimons, R O’Carroll, P McMahon, K Nolan, G Brennan (0-1), B Cahill, MD Macauley, R McConnell (0-1), B Cullen (0-3), A Brogan (0-1), N Corkery, D Henry, E O’Gara (2-1), B Brogan (0-3).
Subs: P Flynn (0-1) for Corkery, C Keaney for Henry, E Fennell for McConnell,, D Magee for Macauley, T Quinn (0-1) for A Brogan
Louth: N Gallagher. E McAuley, D Finnegan, J O’Brien, R Finnegan, M Fanning, S Fitzpatrick, P Keenan (0-2), B White (0-3), A McDonnell (0-1), M Brennan, A Reid, C Judge, S Lennon (0-1), JP Rooney.
Subs: D Clarke (0-3) for Judge, D Byrne (0-2) for R Finnegan, R Carroll for White, D Maguire (0-1) for Rooney, D Crilly for Fitzpatrick
Referee: P McEnaney (Monaghan)