'GAA don't care about us' blasts Cavan boss
Dublin 0-11 Cavan 0-10 ALL-IRELAND U-21 FC SEMI-FINAL
ONLY a whisker in it in the end, or as Cavan argued afterwards, the shrill of a whistle.
Referee Derek O'Mahoney departed the stage surrounded by a slew of stewards and Gardai and to a chorus of boos from Cavan supporters as two late, crucial decisions went against them in the closing minutes. First, Conor McHugh avoided a black card, with O'Mahoney instead opting for a yellow after his tackle on Conor Moynagh.
Cavan's displeasure was compounded when McHugh pulled the sides level with just two minutes left. And with the clock ticking into injury-time, Dublin were awarded a 20-metre free.
Gavin Ivory's shot had hit the post and gone wide but O'Mahoney pulled play back for an earlier foul. Costello pointed to give the Dubs the lead for the first time in the game and it would be enough to send them into the All-Ireland final. Afterwards, the opposing managers took different views on whether it was the right decision.
It was the second year in a row that Cavan had lost an All-Ireland semi-final by the minimum and Cavan boss Peter Reilly didn't hide his displeasure.
"The last three or four minutes for us, the decisions were extremely poor from our side. Like, Tom Hayes got fouled in our mind up in the corner, no free. Young McHugh, a complete black card offence, yellow card, and then he goes and scores the equaliser.
"And then the last free in, the advantage rule, he puts his hand up, fair enough but in the first-half we had the exact same situation and he put his hand down. He seemed to wait for two seconds longer for Dublin than he did in the first half but that's life."
Reilly went on to hit out at the choice of venue for the game, revealing that they had lodged an objection to playing in O'Moore Park and suggested smaller counties aren't getting a fair crack of the whip from Croke Park.
"They've played the Leinster final here, they played the Leinster semi-final here. They actually fought to play the Leinster final here and then they end up playing an All-Ireland semi-final here. We put an objection in about it but we got a letter back from Croke Park – 'hard luck boys'.
"I said it already, are the big boys going to dominate our games with decisions like this? That was an off-field decision. Referees can make decisions on given days that go against you. But why was this game in Portlaoise? They played already here twice. It was an unfair advantage. It shouldn't have been here. But does it matter to the GAA? No. Cavan doesn't matter to them I would suggest.
"It would be like them coming to play us in Armagh. We played our provincial final in Armagh and we played our semi-final there. And we're brought through Dublin to play a game here. Why is that?
"Look, I read a bit in the paper today about Dublin, about various decisions going their way. You can't blame Dublin. If we were in the same situation, we'd take it. But I don't know. It seems to be fairly cruel on the rest of us."
It was probably no surprise that the game came down to such fine margins. The only time Cavan were headed came with Costello's late free but as the game wore on, Dublin were finding gaps in Cavan's defensive system in a game that was balanced on a knife edge for most of the 60 minutes.
The first half saw some wild Dublin shooting and Cavan efficiency. Dublin managed eight wides and had missed clear goal chances through Jack McCaffrey and Costello, who saw his shot well saved by James Farrelly.
At the other end, Ciaran Brady saw his goal-bound effort deflected over the bar while Joe Dillon kicked three fine points as the Ulster champions, through the promptings of the excellent Michael Argue, made the brighter start and took a two point lead in at the break (0-7 to 0-5).
They extended that advantage to four with a quickfire brace on the restart but Cavan would manage just one more point in the final 26 minutes as their legs tired. Dillon's black card going into the final quarter also robbed them of their main attacking threat.
Dublin were far from fluid but their bench played an important role, contributing two vital scores and generally helping to find gaps in a previously miserly Cavan defence.
"We spoke to the lads during the week," said Dubs boss Dessie Farrell. "You just don't realise the level of intensity in games like that and the physical toll it takes on the body, particularly around the middle sector. Fellas wouldn't be able to keep doing it. We had asked some lads to look at it for a 40-minute game."
And while Cavan have gripes with some of the final decisions, it wasn't the first time this Dublin team had shown the character required to dig themselves out of some tight spots.
"They're a mature bunch and we've spoken about the need to be patient all week and that it was going to be very frustrating for forwards in particular," said Farrell.
Farrell conceded that McHugh's black card incident was a "grey area" but insisted O'Mahoney had correctly applied the advantage rule for the decisive score of the game. And, with an All-Ireland final against Roscommon next on the list, he insisted that there is still more to come from his side.
"It's something we have discussed as well that we still have yet to play the type of football we might think we are capable of," he said.
SCORERS – Dublin: C Costello 0-4 (2fs), C McHugh 0-3, E O Conghaile, N Scully, P Mannion, G Ivory 0-1 each. Cavan: J Dillon 0-3, T Hayes, E Flanagan (2fs) 0-2 each, C Brady, M Argue, K Bouchier 0-1 each.
Dublin – L Molloy; R McGowan, D Byrne, R McDaid; J Small, E Lowndes, J McCaffrey; P O'Higgins, B Fenton; N Scully, S Boland, N Walsh; C Costello, P Mannion, C McHugh Subs: E O Conghaile for O'Higgins (28), G Burke for Walsh, G Ivory for Boland (both 39), Shane Cunninghan for Scully (56).
Cavan – J Farrelly; A Watson, B Fortune, K Clarke; G Smith, C Moynagh, C Brady; L Buchanan, P Graham; M Argue, P Faulkner, D McVeety; J Dillon, T Hayes, E Flanagan. Subs: A O'Hara for Moynagh (23), K Bouchier for Dillon (46 BC), C Moynagh for Fortune (49), C Byrne for Flanagan (50), E Hessin for Graham (55), B Sankey for Buchanan (60).
Ref – D O'Mahoney (Tipperary)