Minor fight-back to depose Royals

Cunningham wonder strike turns tide in Navan

Ronan Mac Lochlainn

DUBLIN produced a stirring second-half display to overcome Meath by 2-10 to 1-9 in their Leinster Minor Football League Final at Páirc Tailteann, Navan, last Saturday afternoon.

In doing so, the Dubs received a much-needed boost ahead of their provincial championship opener against Carlow in Dr Cullen Park on Saturday week, and manager Dessie Farrell would have been encouraged by their display after the break.

A physically powerful Meath, who Dublin defeated in last year's Leinster Minor Football Championship Final, were dominant in the early exchanges and took the lead through points from Shane Coogan and Barry Dardis.

Their advantage was extended after a scrappy goal but Dublin managed to stay in contention with Na Fianna's Conor McHugh landing a couple of crucial scores from limited possession.

Matters could have deteriorated for the visitors but for a superb penalty save from Conor Ferris late in the half, and Dublin were handed a lifeline when Shane Cunningham from Kilmacud Crokes scored a sublime goal to leave his side trailing by just 1-5 to 1-3 at the interval.

Meath were once again quicker out of the traps upon the resumption, and slowly but surely restored their supremacy to lead by 1-8 to 1-4 after 37 minutes.

Crucially, Dublin responded with McHugh -- who played a pivotal role in his club's U21 championship success earlier in the year -- netting in the 39th minute as Farrell began to use his bench to telling effect.

The Dubs, who beat Wicklow and Westmeath in addition to drawing with Offaly en route to the final, tightened matters up defensively with Ross McGowan and David Byrne featuring prominently while one of the substitutes, Templeogue Synge Steet's Niall Scully, kicked three pointed frees when introduced.

Fellow sub Eric Lowndes, one of a few Dubs with championship experience from last year, also made a telling impact as the Blues made greater use of the unlimited replacements rule in place for this fixture.

The final 10 minutes saw Dublin hold Meath scoreless, with Scully's three points and further points by McHugh and Shane Carthy seeing the visitors home by four points, defending the title they won last year as part of a provincial league and championship double.

SCORERS - Dublin: Conor McHugh 1-5 (0-2f), Niall Scully 0-3 (0-3f), Shane Cunningham 1-0, Shane Carthy 0-2 (0-1 '45'). Meath: Stephen Coogan 0-3 (0-1f, 0-1 '45'), Barry Dardis 0-2, Cillian O'Sullivan, Patrick Kenelly, Eamon Wallace, Declan Smyth 0-1 each.