Monday 18 December 2017

Carthy stars as Farrell's under-21s land another Leinster crown

DUBLIN'S dominance of Leinster football continued as they secured their fourth provincial title since 2009 after a lively decider in Portlaoise.

Despite Meath's early dominance, Dessie Farrell's side were deserving winners on the balance of the 60 minutes.

The first half was a tale of Meath profligacy and Dublin efficiency. The Royals went in trailing by four points at the break but might have been at least on level terms after lording possession for the second quarter.

They made a bright start but had kicked two wides before the lively Bobby O'Brien – one of Meath's better performers – opened their account after two minutes.

Dublin took control for the remainder of the first quarter but could only manage three points before Meath were in the ascendancy again.

From there, the Royals cleaned out the Dublin midfield but the forwards were misfiring, with a combination of a missed 13-metre free from Seamus Mattimoe, poor shot selection and some stout Dublin defending seeing them rack up a total of eight first-half wides.

Sean Barry's side also missed a penalty in this period. A one-two between Brian Power and Joey Wallace saw the Royals get in behind the Dublin cover for the first time.

Power found Padraic Harnan who was fouled in the square by John Small but Lorcan Molloy did superbly well to palm away O'Brien's penalty.

And when Conor Sheridan pulled the resultant '45' wide, Meath looked like they were leaving themselves with too much to do. By the interval, Meath had left a possible 1-8 behind them, compared to just two Dublin wides, and that would prove fatal to their ambitions of causing a significant upset after Dublin had been priced at 1/6 to prevail.

At the other end, Dublin's forwards were starved of possession for large periods but the likes of Paul Mannion, Cormac Costello and Conor McHugh always looked dangerous.

Farrell's side weathered the Meath storm and while the Royals pulled to within a point when O'Brien landed a splendid effort, Dublin reeled off three points in the final five minutes of the first half to take control.

Shane Carthy was superb in this period, kicking two points (one free) and helping Dublin win vital possession in the middle third. And their lead could have been bigger as with almost the last action of the half, McHugh could have goaled.

Instead, his shot to rocketed back off the crossbar and away to safety to leave the score at 0-7 to 0-3 at the interval. The second half followed a similar pattern with Dublin more convincing in front of goal.

The Dubs had stretched their lead to seven points just five minutes after the restart and might have raised a green flag but for Andy Colgan's good save from the impressive McHugh when the Na Fianna man had better options inside.

The Royals' midfield dominance had faded but they stuck to their task and might have goaled through Conor Sheridan but he was denied by another superb Molloy save.

At half-time Dublin introduced Gavin Burke – fresh from his All-Ireland-winning campaign with St Vincent's – and he had a big influence, kicking two important scores to quell any semblance of a Meath revival.

Still the Royals kept coming and they managed to close the gap to four points with 10 minutes to go thanks to O'Brien and a Bryan McMahon free.

Crucially, they missed a chance to move to within a goal of the Dubs and that proved to be as good as it got for the Royals. Farrell's side – who were now operating without the withdrawn Cormac Costello – worked the ball downfield and pointed a free through McHugh to seal another provincial title for the Dubs.

Dublin move on to an All-Ireland semi-final against the Ulster champions on April 19.

DUBLIN: L Molloy; R McGowan, D Byrne, R McDaid; J Small, S Cunningham, J McCaffrey; P O'Higgins, S Carthy 0-3; N Scully 0-1, E Lowndes 0-1, C Costello 0-5 (3f); P Mannion, M Deegan, C McHugh 0-3. Subs: S Boland for Deegan (24), G Burke 0-2 for Cunningham (h-t), E O Conghaile for Costello (47), S Cunningham for O'Higgins (55).

MEATH: A Colgan; S Carty, C McGill, D McQuillan; B Power, S Melia, S McEntee 0-1; C Sheridan, A Flanagan; N Shortall, B O'Brien 0-4, P Harnan; S Mattimoe 0-3 (2f), B McMahon 0-1f, J Wallace 0-1. Subs: C Finn for McQuillan (40), A Burke for Carty (47), O Fitzpatrick for Power (52), B Dardis for

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