Monday 20 November 2017

'Rossies won't fear Dubs – they'll relish occasion'

Former U-21 star Kilroy feels giant strides taken by Connacht men will stand to them in final

Roscommon's Ultan Harney (left) and Mark Healy will be hoping to have further cause for celebration after the Cadbury All-Ireland U-21 Football Championship final today
Roscommon's Ultan Harney (left) and Mark Healy will be hoping to have further cause for celebration after the Cadbury All-Ireland U-21 Football Championship final today
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

The aura of success surrounding Dublin football at all levels this year won't deceive manager Dessie Farrell or his players as they prepare to face Roscommon in the All-Ireland U-21 football final in Tullamore today.

Farrell has seen both sides of the coin at under-age level as a team boss, first when losing the 2011 minor All-Ireland to Tipperary and then bouncing back to guide the Dublin U-18s to success the following year.

Last year he replaced Jim Gavin as manager of the U-21s and the Dubs got shocked by Longford in Leinster.

This year, his side has successfully negotiated Leinster, followed by a controversial one-point win over a stubborn Cavan team in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Dublin got the rub of the green in terms of a couple of vital refereeing decisions late in the match and ended up winners by 0-11 to 0-10.

Farrell's side got the job done – barely – and cannot afford to get carried away by the feel-good factor surrounding the Sky Blues, particularly after the senior team's crushing league defeat of Derry.

EMERGED

They now face a determined and hungry Roscommon side in a repeat of the 2012 U-21 decider.

The Rossies also had a close shave in their semi-final against Cork before they, too, emerged with a one-point victory to claim their place in the decider.

Farrell said: "Roscommon have been very good all year and they produced an excellent performance against Cork.

"It was a bit tight for them in the closing stages, but they certainly deserved their win and they are justifying the positive talk that is emanating from the county in relation to their potential."

Roscommon manager Nigel Dineen is also keeping his cards close to his chest in advance of the final.

"There may be excitement outside of the camp, but the day after we beat Cork we resumed training. It's been business as usual for us, that's how it will continue. Some of our players were playing two years ago so they know exactly what's ahead of them and we're firmly focused on the job in hand."

Former Roscommon U-21 player Niall Kilroy, who played in that 2012 decider, has no doubt that the 2014 side will be geared up for a big performance.

Dublin-based Kilroy recalls how the side of two years ago approached that final. "There was no excess tension about it for our team. Everyone had played at a high level, whether it was Sigerson or minor finals or semi-finals," he said.

"Even with the present bunch, over the last three or four years, our minors and U-21s have been playing in the latter stages of the All-Ireland, so, while it's an All-Ireland final and it's a big thing, it's not overwhelming for them at all.

"They'll be used to it. None of them would fear it or anything, they'll relish it if anything," he said.

Kilroy was on the Fuerty team which played in the All-Ireland Junior football final at Croke Park this year.

The 2012 showpiece was his last season at U-21 level and he's hoping the present side, which includes some of his team-mates of two years ago, can go all the way this time.

"I suppose one big memory was the support we had from Roscommon," Kilroy recalled.

"Our supporters outnumbered the Dublin following significantly. That was a huge driving force for us, but we just came up short on the day.

"We were there with 10 minutes to go and then they pulled away. That was the killer blow really."

One of the players Dublin brought on that day was Paul Mannion, who, like Jack McCaffrey, has gone on to feature strongly in Jim Gavin's Dublin senior side.

Cormac Costello was a minor two years ago, but he has also broken through to the seniors and these players will hope their top-level experience can push the Dubs through to the county's third U-21 title since 2010.

TOPPLE

Roscommon's 2012 'survivors' list includes skipper David Murray, Conor Daly, Cathal Shine and Donie Smith.

The memories of that defeat gives them every incentive to do what Cavan almost did a few weeks ago, which is to topple the high-flying Dubs.

If Roscommon succeed, they will bring the county only its third All-Ireland U-21 title. The first was in 1966, the second in 1978, so they face a huge challenge, particularly as the Dublin squad is backboned by the All-Ireland minor and U-21 championship-winning teams of 2012.

Despite the strength of Dublin, Kilroy believes the Rossies are up to the task.

"Roscommon will have no fear of Dublin at all. They'll respect them, but they'll be very confident they can get the win," he said.

Irish Independent

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