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So close for young Dubs

A wonder goal from substitute Colman Kennedy, three minutes from time, handed Tipperary victory over Dublin by the narrowest of margins in their enthralling All-Ireland Minor Football Championship Final in Croke Park yesterday afternoon.

Kennedy availed of a defensive slip-up between Ross O'Hanlon and Rutherson Real to crack a powerful shot to the roof of the net, handing his side a two-point lead and, although Ciarán Kilkenny responded with a pointed free entering injury time, it proved the final score in an epic encounter.

How Dublin allowed themselves to be caught on the line will be a source of heartache and soul-searching over the coming weeks and months as they dominated possession for the majority of the game and led for all but 10 minutes of the match.

Tipperary will point to the influence of their substitutes, especially Kennedy and Philip Quirke, who amassed 1-5 between them after their introductions at half-time, but Dublin's second-half wide tally of 10 is more indicative of how the game was won and lost.

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell made one late change to his starting selection, with Conor Meaney replacing David Campbell, while Tipperary were forced to withdraw Quirke, with John McGrath lining out at centre-forward for the Munster Champions.

A bright start for the Premier County was essential if they were to bely their underdog status and they were handed a dream opening when Bill Maher opened the scoring inside 20 seconds of the first whistle.

Matters improved even further for Tipperary a minute later when their captain Liam McGrath gained possession in centrefield before embarking on a surging run which culminated in a glorious finish to the bottom right corner of O'Hanlon's net.

Dublin's response to this early setback was admirable as they took complete control, with a period of supremacy started by Paul Mannion's well-taken point in the third minute after a telling pass from Gavin Ivory.

Mannion added a free in the fifth minute and from the resultant kick-out Jack McCaffrey gained possession before finding Ivory, who gained 20 metres before unleashing an unstoppable finish to the roof of Evan Comerford's net from 16 metres.

With Emmet Ó Conghaile and Patrick O'Higgins gaining the upper hand in midfield against their much vaunted opposition of Stephen O'Brien and Ian Fahey, the Dubs began punching holes in the Tipperary rearguard, with John Small and Kilkenny adding scores by the end of the first quarter.

Three points followed in two minutes, with Cormac Costello tagging on a fine score, while Kilkenny was becoming increasingly dangerous as reflected by his two classy scores soon after.

Crucially, Liam McGrath landed a 20th-minute free to restore his side's composure and, although Ó Conghaile replied at the opposite end for Dublin, Tipperary were handed a lifeline approaching injury time when O'Hanlon was harshly judged to have fouled TJ Ryan inside the square.


The resultant penalty was clinically dispatched to the net by Michael Quinlivan to leave just three points between the sides, but that was soon up to five by the break, with Kilkenny adding two close-in frees before the interval.

The influence of both Kennedy and Quirke was clearly evident upon the resumption as Tipperary hit four points in quick succession through two Kennedy frees and a point apiece by Quirke and Quinlivan.

Dublin regrouped well to kick the next two scores through McCaffrey and Kilkenny but it was a poor return on their supremacy around centrefield as they picked up breaking ball with ease against what looked a flagging Tipperary challenge.

However, a series of poor wides and shots dropped short allowed Tipperary to remain in contention and they narrowed their deficit through two quickfire points from Liam McGrath and Quirke.

Ivory and Quirke traded scores as the match became increasingly frantic and the outstanding contest reached its epic conclusion with a goal worthy of winning any All-Ireland as Dublin succumbed in the cruelest manner possible.