Baby Dubs pass test of character
AS EVEN the fastest man on the planet discovered yesterday, there are absolutely no certainties in sport.
Dublin's teen stars were living up to their vaunted reputation by half-time in this clash, playing pretty football and leading by a four-point margin that should have been far more given the chances they had already wasted.
Yet Galway restarted with some key positional switches and, four minutes after the changeover, the Baby Dubs found themselves two points down after conceding a swift 1-3 without reply, including a goal from Shane Walsh's penalty.
More than one defender found himself ineffectually chasing a Rabbitte -- brilliant Galway corner-forward Conor, who showed sublime shooting and vision -- and when he set Paul Mannion up to extend their lead to three in the 39th minute, the highly fancied city kids found themselves in unknown territory.
Having scored 8-78 before yesterday, they had qualified with the sort of ease Usain Bolt usually experiences in heats. Suddenly, they found themselves in a contest, held scoreless for 13 minutes for the second time in the game.
But, like their seniors, they too found the composure and grit to pull through and kept the county's hopes of a big football double intact. And with their U-21 and minor hurlers also in the last two, it means a possible four All-Irelands for the county.
Gavin Ivory and midfielder Patrick O'Higgins led their initial charge, but even manager Dessie Farrell's legendary stoicism was sorely tested by their first-half profligacy.
Yet he agreed afterwards that this just might prove to be the perfect entrée to the final.
"To this point we had a bit of a surreal existence," Farrell admitted. "We always knew there was going to be a test and the question for us was when that test came, would we have the right response and could we deal with that? Thankfully, we were able to see it out. That was character-building stuff out there."
Led by dual star centre-forward Ciaran Kilkenny, they battled back to equalise in the 51st minute and that included forcing Connor Gleeson to make a good save from Cormac Costello after one of Kilkenny's shots came back off the upright.
Then centre-back John Small edged them in front with a game-swinging point and an inspirational insurance point from Kilkenny, one of their four dual starters.
Rabbitte subsequently earned a free, which top-scorer Shane Walsh converted, but, in the four minutes of injury-time added, you could sense Galway's belief ebbing away even before Kilkenny's sixth point (a 13-metre free) kept Dublin safe.
The beaten Connacht finalists ultimately ran out of steam -- several of them suffered cramp -- and will also reflect on their own wasted chances, particularly the five wides they kicked after Walsh had scored a softish 34th-minute penalty, earned by Ian Burke.
Several of them shot from too far out when team-mates were much better placed closer to goal.
But considering their bad start -- they conceded a goal to Scott Fulham after just 13 seconds and almost immediately had one of their own stopped by Ross O'Hanlon's good save on Sean Moran -- manager Tommie Joyce was still proud of them.
"I knew everyone else had us written off but there is serious potential in the team and I knew they'd stand up to Dublin today and we were just very unlucky in the finish," Joyce said.
Apart from a little carelessness on high balls, their defence, especially their half-back line of Eoin Walsh, Ciaran Cunningham and Cathal Mulryan, was solid throughout. And when Joyce threw big midfielder Shane Maughan up to full-forward and pulled Burke to centre-forward, Galway's attack was transformed and suddenly had Dublin in serious trouble.
"All the changes worked to a certain extent. We went from four down to two points up and had chances then to win the game, but we just didn't push on," Joyce said.
"We just didn't get enough scores when we had our superiority."
Scorers -- Dublin: C Kilkenny 0-6 (2f), S Fulham 1-1, J Small, C Costello, P Mannion, G Ivory (1 '45') 0-1 each. Galway: S Walsh 1-4 (0-4f, 1-0 pen), C Rabbitte 0-3, S Maughan, I Burke 0-1 each.
Dublin -- R O'Hanlon 7; G Hannigan 6, R McDaid (capt) 7, R Real 6; E Lowndes 7, J Small 8, J McCaffrey 7; P O'Higgins 7, E O Conghaile 6; P Mannion 7, G Ivory 7, C Costello 6; S Fulham 7, D Campbell 6, C Kilkenny 9. Subs: D Byrne 8 for Real (35), N Scully 8 for Campbell (44), E Archibold 7 for Costello (52), C Meaney 6 for Kilkenny (64).
Galway -- C Gleeson 8; A Nolan 6, J Shaughnessy 6, E Murray 6; E Walsh 8, C Cunningham 8, C Mulryan 8; S Maughan 7, G Canavan 8; S Moran 7, S Walsh 7, P Glynn 6; G Armstrong 6, I Burke 7, C Rabbitte 9. Subs: T Curran 7 for Glynn (46), S Geoghegan 7 for Armstrong (49), G Gibbons 6 for Moran (inj, 35), L Silke 6 for Canavan (inj, 64).
Ref -- R O'Donnell (Donegal).