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Blue wave is unstoppable

JIM GAVIN has presided over three Leinster titles and an All-Ireland crown in his sterling five years in charge of the Dublin U21s, and even if last night's success in Páirc Tailteann must rank as the most routine of all his managerial successes, the win still tasted just as sweet.

"They're all sweet," he smiled after his side's 1-16 to 0-8 romp over Louth, a margin which, in truth, could have been closer to an abyss had the Dublin forward line been more pristine in both their shot selection and execution.

"To win a provincial final is a great occasion for the county and the players and their families and their clubs, it's a great occasion.

"It's a provincial final. I thought some of the remarks people were making about Louth were disrespectful in the media in general."

Billed as overwhelming favourites, Dublin lived up to every inch of that expectation. And in Ciarán Kilkenny, they had a forward with a classy knack for identifying and carrying out the best possible option with the ball just about every time he touched it.

His haul was complete at 1-7, all but one of his points coming from play in yet another reminder of his immense potential.

He scored a goal with his very first touch, a timely tap into the net just a minute and five seconds after Mark Schutte's smart delivery and went on a scoring spree of five points in a row during the middle passage of the second half, a rampage which destroyed what was left of Louth's resolve.

"The first half was tight and they put our guys under a lot of pressure when they were trying to go for shots," Gavin noted, although the match was almost ended as a contest just two minutes in, when Philly Ryan put the ball in the net but was adjudged to have encroached in the small rectangle before the ball had arrived.



Execution

It was a tight call, and perhaps a sympathetic one, but it was merely a stay of execution for Louth, who didn't have the options in attack to overly trouble an assured Dublin full-back line and hadn't nearly the defensive nous to stunt Kilkenny.

They did, however, have Joe Flanagan in goals and he produced clinical first-half saves from both Kilkenny and Philly Ryan, scores which really would have consigned the second half to routine.

"We're not going to score from every attack," Gavin surmised. "There are areas for improvement, as there is after every match.

Emmet O Conaghile and Ciarán Reddin won midfield comprehensively for Dublin, and with Jack McCaffrey slaloming his way through gaps and Gary Sweeney threatening to do likewise, Louth couldn't quite identify a point of attack to devote their focus.

And when the ball made its way inside, Kilkenny won it, created space and finished like a senior veteran in a minor challenge match. Two consecutive points, in particular, epitomised his unique talents. In the 44th minute, he reacted and pounced on a loose pass from Louth corner-back Tiernan Hand and bravely competed and won a 50/50 ball with Anthony Williams.

In a blink, he steadied himself and bisected the posts.

Three minutes later, he took on his man, shaped to shoot, anticipated the block and hopped the ball into space before lofting another shot with the same superb delicacy.



Attitude

At that point, Dublin had all but secured a third Leinster title in four years, but it is credit to Gavin and his management that the attitude and application remained until the very end.

Dublin now play Cork or Kerry on Saturday, April 21, and Gavin can expect a far tougher challenge than anything which came his team's way in a Leinster championship which saw them win their four matches by a combined total of 52 points - or 13 per match.

"The guys need to enjoy themselves," he reflected.

"It's a provincial final and it's a fantastic occasion for them.

"Leinster medals are hard won and they have to be cherished by the guys.

"There is absolutely no complacency within that group. They're very focused, very committed. And they're an ambitious group.

"They've taken ownership of this whole process and, in some ways, we're just facilitating them.

"But we'll regroup and we'll focus on the next game. These guys have taken control of this process and I know they'll be very focused on the game."


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