Sunday 19 November 2017

Dublin make history by brushing aside Offaly challenge to claim fourth Leinster under-21 title in a row

Dublin 2-14 Offaly 0-8

Dublin joint captains Con O'Callaghan, left, and Cillian O'Shea lift the cup after the EirGrid Leinster GAA Football U21 Championship Final match between Dublin and Offaly at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise, Co Laois. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Dublin joint captains Con O'Callaghan, left, and Cillian O'Shea lift the cup after the EirGrid Leinster GAA Football U21 Championship Final match between Dublin and Offaly at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise, Co Laois. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Frank Roche

Frank Roche

CON O’CALLAGHAN didn’t shoot the lights out this time. Colm Basquel didn’t even play. And still Dublin finished with 12 points to spare over Offaly at O’Moore Park tonight.

That, in a nutshell, sums up the current chasm in standards between Dublin football and the rest – not just at senior level but also here, in the last ever year of the U21 championship.

In the process, the holders secured their own niche in history by becoming the first county to win four consecutive Leinster U21 titles, storming ahead of Kildare’s 1960s vintage and the Meath team that completed its hat-trick in 1991.

Dessie Farrell has been manager for all four. Here, instead of being reliant on any individual masterclass, he had many players who delivered cameos of excellence at different times.

These included Eoin Murchan in defence, midfield duo Andrew Foley and Brian Howard, official Man of the Match Aaron Byrne with a brilliant first half, top-scorer Tom Fox with 1-2 from play, and O’Callaghan too – albeit more as selfless link-man than executioner-in-chief.

Offaly were brave to a fault and occasionally inspired in a first half that still underlined the gap in class between both teams.

The rank outsiders trailed by 0-10 to 0-5, having played with the elements. Then Mont Blanc became Everest when O’Callaghan tapped over his second free and followed up with a clever lay-off for Fox to clip home Dublin’s first goal, four minutes after the restart.

Glen O’Reilly’s 40-yard effort stretched their lead into double-digits before they entered a 16-minute scoring lull. Offaly landed three points in this period but needed so much more … then Dublin stirred themselves for one final flourish, O’Callaghan pointing off either foot before Aaron Elliot teed up fellow sub Stephen Smith for their second goal, a minute into stoppage time.

Offaly fans were the more vocal in a crowd of 2,095. Initially, at least, corner-forward Shane Tierney gave them reason to cheer by arcing over three outrageously good right-footed points, each one better than the previous one. Yet his efforts did little more than keep Offaly within vague touch.

At times they unnerved the Dublin defence, such as when Ronan McEvoy burst through a couple of tackles for a potential goal chance that flashed over, on eight minutes.

That left them just a point adrift, but Dublin responded with the next three – a brace from Byrne, off either foot, and then a Byrne ‘45’ which followed a goal chance for Chris Sallier, whose attempt was deflected into the side-netting.

Three times Offaly responded to cut the deficit to three points – but then Murchan wandered up from defence to score before O’Callaghan, belatedly, opened his account with a tap-over free in injury-time.

That left Dublin ahead by double-scores, their success based on the cohesion of their counter-attacks, the pressure being exerted on the opposing kickout – not to mention Offaly’s wasteful eight wides with the wind. In truth, a storming comeback never appeared remotely likely.

SCORERS - Dublin: T Fox 1-2, A Byrne (1 ‘45’), C O’Callaghan (2f) 0-4 each, G O’Reilly 0-2, C Sallier, E Murchan 0-1 each. Offaly: S Tierney 0-4 (1f), J Hayes 0-3 (2f), R McEvoy 0-1. 

DUBLIN: E Comerford; D Monaghan, S McMahon, D Byrne; E Murchan, C O’Shea, C Murphy; B Howard, A Foley; T Fox, D O’Brien, A Byrne; C Sallier, C O’Callaghan, G O’Reilly. Subs: S Smith for Sallier (41), S Bugler for O’Brien (41), D Gavin for Fox (48), A Elliot for O’Reilly (51), A McGowan for Monaghan (56).

OFFALY: B Rohan; C Horan, D Dempsey, C Doyle; A Mahon, PJ Daly, J Egan; J Lalor, J Hayes; C Farrell, R McEvoy, J Walsh; R McNamee, P Dunican, S Tierney. Subs: K Higgins for Daly (41), J Clancy for Dunican (49), C Stewart for Egan (62).

REF: D Hickey (Carlow).

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