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harps on song

Oisín O'Leary's 36th-minute goal proved crucial in deciding the outcome of this decider at O'Toole Park on Sunday afternoon, as Skerries Harps secured the Dublin Under-21 Football Championship 'B' crown following a low-scoring encounter with Templeogue Synge Street.

Templeogue almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in second-half stoppage-time when Killian O'Gara (brother of county football star Eoghan) dispossessed Harps goalkeeper Shane Davis, but his subsequent goal attempt was brilliantly stopped by the retreating Skerries defence.

Synge Street duo Ross Byrne and Niall O'Sullivan, as well as Skerries half-forward James McIlwaine, were dismissed late on as tempers started to fray, and the northside outfit were made to sweat before ultimately securing the second-tier title.

O'Leary is the son of former Dublin great John, who joined the Skerries management set-up earlier in the year. However, their opponents also had an All-Ireland winner working behind the scenes in the shape of Sky Blues midfielder Denis Bastick.

The early exchanges of the contest were somewhat subdued, although an incisive pass by O'Leary on three minutes did provide a gilt-edged chance for fellow attacker Stephen Smith. With a three-pointer in his sights, Smith delivered a firm strike off his right-peg, but Synger custodian Cormac O'Gara (one of eight brothers in the O'Gara clan) was more than equal to his efforts.

This was certainly seen as a major missed opportunity, but with Skerries opting to drop a number of bodies inside their own half, Templeogue were finding it difficult to supply their inside line with quality possession.

The deadlock was finally broken nine minutes into the action, when O'Leary split the posts in clinical fashion from 25 metres at the end of a fine move.

This was quickly supplemented by placed-ball scores from netminder Davis (who ventured up field to convert a tricky '45') and O'Leary, as Skerries attempted to turn the screw.

drive

A fierce Paul Cashman drive was tipped over by Cormac O'Gara after 25 minutes, before a resilient Synger eventually opened their account courtesy of a Joe Varley point two minutes later.

This was a morale-boosting score for the Dolphin Park outfit, and they added additional singles through Killian O'Gara and Dublin U21 footballer Niall Scully (free) to reduce their deficit to one (0-4 to 0-3) in time for the interval.

With the breeze at their backs in the second period, Templeogue would have felt positive about their chances of success, especially if they could bring Scully and Killian O'Gara into the play.

It was Skerries who drew first blood after the restart, however, when O'Leary cut inside on to his right foot, and coolly dispatched the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

The prospects of the Thomas Hand Street side were greatly enhanced as a result of this score, and they increased their lead to five thanks to a Stephen Smith point on the stroke of 40 minutes.

Matters were beginning to look quite ominous for Synger at this point, and a brace of Scully frees in the 45th and 46th minutes respectively were much-welcomed by their loyal supporters.

The athletic centre-forward was doing his best to take the game to the Skerries rearguard, but despite coming up short on a couple of previous occasions, Davis squeezed a 30-metre free between the uprights with 12 minutes left to play.

Industrious wing-forward Jake Swaine responded swiftly with an excellent point on the turn, though, and with O'Leary's goal being the only thing that separated the sides, a tantalising finale lay ahead.

A 56th-minute point from Scully increased the tension on Skerries, who were now struggling to work the ball into shooting range.

Byrne's red card for a late tackle on McIlwaine did give Skerries a numerical advantage heading into injury-time, but their back-line needed to be on their toes to prevent Killian O'Gara from grabbing a game-changing goal.

A scuffle close to the Skerries goal involving numerous players ended with O'Sullivan and McIlwaine receiving their marching orders, and after Harps subsequently regained possession, they had done enough to record a hard-earned triumph.

Scorers - Skerries Harps: O O'Leary 1-2 (0-1f), S Davis 0-2 (1 '45', 1f), P Cashman, S Smith 0-1 each.

Templeogue Synge Street: N Scully 0-4 (4f), J Swaine, K O'Gara, J Varley 0-1 each.

SKERRIES HARPS: S Davis; F Geraghty, E McGinley, N McConvey; D Forde, E Smith, K Gilmore; S Rocks, D McIlgorm; T Ryan, P Cashman, J McIlwaine; S Smith, C Smith, O O'Leary. Subs: B McDonald for C Smith (42), C Coleman for O'Leary (63).

TEMPLEOGUE SYNGE STREET: C O'Gara; R Power, R Byrne, E Haddock; B Bentley, N O'Sullivan, C O'Sullivan; S Brew, O Barrett; J Swaine, N Scully, S McGovern; K O'Gara, P Smith, J Varley. Subs: M Reynolds for McGovern (42).

MENTORS - Skerries Harps: T McGuinness, J O'Leary, C Geraghty, A Geraghty.

Templeogue Synge Street: G Vickery, C Donoghue, D Bastick, J McAllister.

REF: R Glennon (St Anne's).

WIDES - Skerries Harps: 5 (3). Templeogue Synge Street: 9(6).

CONDITIONS: Breezy and dry for the most part; sunny spells initially, but patches of rain later on.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Oisin O'Leary (Skerries Harps).


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