Monday 20 November 2017

Con O'Callaghan proves the difference as slick Dubs advance

Dublin 1-12 Meath 0-9

Dublin's Darragh Spillane, son of Kerry great Mick, in action against Meath's Michael Flood during last night's Leinster U-21 FC quarter-final Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Darragh Spillane, son of Kerry great Mick, in action against Meath's Michael Flood during last night's Leinster U-21 FC quarter-final Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Killian Deeley is sent off by referee Brendan Cawley Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Con O'Callaghan tries to escape Meath's Daniel O'Neill Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Aaron Byrne tries to shake off a challenge from Meath's Jamie Reilly Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Michael Verney

Games hinge on small margins and Con O'Callaghan's decision to take a chance on the stroke of half-time reaped dividends as he rifled the all-important goal to send Dublin into the semi-finals.

Meath had battled back from a three-point deficit and were level at 0-6 each in the dying seconds of the first half before O'Callaghan gambled on a high breaking ball off Michael Deegan before collecting and firing past Johnny Lynch.

It burst the growing Royal bubble and was a real sucker punch. It was just rewards for O'Callaghan, however, as the Cuala attacker controlled the Dublin orchestra throughout, scoring 1-7 in total, and looks a real prospect for Jim Gavin's seniors.

Sean Barry, who won an All-Ireland minor medal with Dublin in 1984, will be disappointed that his Meath side couldn't get any closer than two points in the closing half but the Dubs were the better side and closed out the game expertly to record a six-point win despite finishing with just 13 men.

Full-back Martin Cahilan and towering midfielder Killian Deeley, as well as Meath's Ronan Jones, were all sent off for second yellow cards in the second-half but the game was far from dirty and even lacked the edge of a usual Dublin/Meath affair.

O'Callaghan hit the opening score inside 20 seconds and Dublin were unlucky not to have a goal through Aaron Byrne. Ruairi O Caoleann got Meath off the mark soon after, quickly followed by Daire Rowe, but Michael Deegan had the Dubs level with a fine point.

Dessie Farrell's side quickly took control as Byrne and O'Callaghan fired over for a 0-4 to 0-2 lead.

O'Callaghan was on target again as Meath finally ended a 12-minute scoring famine with a neat point from O Caoleann. Darragh Spillane, son of Kerry great Mick, responded for Dublin to go three up despite playing against the breeze.


That was their last point for over 20 minutes, however, as Meath took control and despite seven first-half wides, they levelled through Rowe (2) and sub Caolaoch O'Halligan before O'Callaghan was quickest to react to a dangerous long ball to notch a real poacher's goal.

Both sides were guilty of some poor shooting in an open second half but Meath cut the gap to two through Rowe. Brian Howard responded for Dublin to maintain their three-point lead, and with O'Callaghan pointing from all angles, they pushed on to the finish.

They will meet the winners of Laois/Wicklow in the next round as they chase three-in-a-row.

Scorers - Dublin: C O'Callaghan 1-7 (0-3fs), A Byrne 0-2, M Deegan, B Howard and D Spillane 0-1 each. Meath: D Rowe 0-5 (4f), R O Caoileann 0-2, J McEntee, C O'Halligan 0-1 each.

Dublin - L Molloy; D Bolger, M Cahilan, E Smith; G O'Reilly, S McMahon, B Howard; A Foley, K Deeley; T Lahiff, C O'Callaghan, K O'Shea; M Deegan, D Spillane. Subs: K Doherty for K Deeley (16 BS), K Deeley for K Doherty (BS 22), D Monaghan for D Bolger (ht) O Lynch for M Deegan (40), K Doherty for A Foley (43), A McGowan for G O'Reilly (49), C Sallier for D Spillane (50).

Meath - J Lynch; M Flood, D O'Neill, J Reilly; G McGowan, T McGovern, N Kane; D Ryan, R Jones; S Byrne, J Wallace, J McEntee; K Ryan, R Ó Caoileann, D Rowe. Subs: C O'Halligan for J Wallace (12), K Traynor for G McGowan (39), B Duggan for S Byrne (47), N O'Reilly for D Ryan (48), J McCarney for D O'Neill (56), S Meade for N Kane (59).

Ref - B Cawley (Kildare)

Irish Independent

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