Farrell applauds application of young Blues
Dublin 2-13 Galway 2-7
It's not the sort of soundbite you usually hear from All-Ireland-winning managers but when Dessie Farrell described his side as "not the most talented team" Dublin had ever produced, he was underlining the qualities that had secured the last U-21 All-Ireland title.
Farrell's side had controlled Saturday's decider from start to finish and were never headed in the 60 minutes. And even when Galway gave themselves just a sniff of a chance down the home straight, when they cut an eight-point gap to four, there was no panic. In the end, there could be little quibble with their six-point winning margin.
"They're probably not the most talented team to put on a blue jersey and they won't mind me saying that," Farrell reflected afterwards.
"But without a shadow of a doubt they're the hardest-working bunch that I've ever been involved with. I think we worked hard in creating the culture around them this year that they could thrive and prosper as players and as people as well, which is important to us. They embraced that with open arms. They were phenomenal."
If they weren't the most talented group, the rest of the country must be wondering what a good Dublin team looks like as Farrell's charges hardly had a glove laid on them for the whole campaign. Across five games this year, they won their matches by an average of more than nine points as Westmeath, Longford, Offaly, Donegal and finally Galway were put to the sword as they secured their fifth All-Ireland U-21 title.
Dublin led by a point (0-5 to 0-4) after a nervous first half. Galway had grown in to the game as the opening chapter wore on. And with Galway's Sean Andy Ó Ceallaigh doing a fine job of forcing Dublin's star man Con O'Callaghan to the margin of things - Galway manager Gerry Fahy later described his performance as "as good a display as I ever saw in a Gaelic jersey anywhere in the country" - they were well within striking distance at the break.
But Dublin did huge damage just after the restart when they hit a quick-fire 1-3 in the five minutes after the interval. Glenn O'Reilly, Darren Gavin and Dan O'Brien all steered over points before they grabbed the game's first goal through O'Callaghan. Suddenly, Galway trailed by seven.
That took the wind from the Tribesmen, but to their credit they still managed a late surge. They got back to within four points after Cillian McDaid found the net and Kieran Molloy pointed. They then almost grabbed another goal but Ruairi Greene was desperately unlucky to see his shot hit the post and roll across the line before being cleared. Galway would miss a free shortly afterwards and almost immediately, Dublin broke clear to grab their second goal through Aaron Byrne on 57 minutes.
There was more drama in injury time when Colm Brennan forced another goal for Galway but Dublin had the last word when O'Callaghan pointed a penalty to bring things to an end.
"Dublin got a spell that really punished us, every chance they got they put it over the bar," Galway manager Gerry Fahy reflected. "They got three or four or five in-a-row and I think that ultimately proved the difference. Even when we got the goals it wasn't enough for us to claw them back."
"For some reason today we just didn't get to the pace of game, we were making a lot of technical errors, we just weren't pushing up on them like we were in other matches. I don't think you can do that to Dublin. They were allowed to get a bit of momentum and they grew in confidence as a result."
Fahy was proud that they mounted their late comeback but his side could never reach the height of performance they managed when seeing off Kerry in the semi-final.
"I knew that character was in our team, that we were going to do that and we did. And it looked like when Ruairi got in there and hit it off the post, despite everything going against us, that it might just swing back in our favour but it wasn't to be today.
"They've learned a lot this year and I've no doubt they'll come back stronger, better players as that's the character that they have inside them.
"They'll be very disappointed. I don't have any doubt that a lot of them will play senior for Galway and will win big matches for Galway in the future."
For Dublin, another successful group of footballers join the queue of players looking to catch Jim Gavin's eye. And Farrell gives them a fighting chance of seeing action for the seniors.
"Well they've come on a heap for sure. They're students of the game as well, which is really important. It's not just about running through the drills and playing the games or whatever, you have to really have the hunger and desire to want to develop and want to get better and want to learn.
"They've a huge appetite for that and that was evident in the huge transformation in the team over the couple of months and some of the individuals as well. It was a steep learning curve for some of them but they were more than willing to embrace it and if they keep on that trajectory there's a lot of them that will be in with a shout."
Saturday's win also marks the end of Farrell's association with Dublin teams that between development squads, minor and U-21, runs to more than a decade's service. "I think that'll be somebody else's (job to mange the U-20s next year)," he said.
"We were through to 21 and we've seen it out now and that'll be it. Maybe some of the management team will do it. They're a wonderful bunch and it's been a pleasure to work with them. I'm happy with what we've done here. It's been a wonderful couple of years. It's been a great experience. "I need to get on and drive on with other stuff that's important."
Scorers - Dublin: C O'Callaghan 1-3 (2f, 0-1 pen); A Byrne 1-0; G O'Reilly 0-3; D O'Brien, C Basquel 0-2 each; D Gavin, B Howard, S Smith 0-1 each. Galway: C McDaid 1-1; C Brennan 1-0; E Finnerty, P Mannion, P Cooke (1f), K Molloy, C Brady, M Daly 0-1 each.
Dublin - E Comerford; D Byrne, S McMahon, D Monaghan; C O'Shea, E Murchan, C Murphy; A Foley, B Howard; D O'Brien, G O'Reilly, A Byrne; T Fox, C Basquel, C O'Callaghan. Subs: D Gavin for Foley (13), D Spillane for Fox (39), C Sallier for O'Reilly (45), A McGowan for McMahon (60), P Small for Basquel (60), S Smith for Byrne (60).
Galway - R Ó Beolain; SA Ó Ceallaigh, L Kelly, R Greene; C McDaid, D McHugh, K Molloy; P Cooke, C D'arcy; P Mannion, M Daly, S Kelly; R Finnerty, E Finnerty, D Conneely. Subs: C Brady for R Finnerty (HT), C Brennan for D'arcy (37), M Boyle for Connelly (39), E Lee for Kelly (44), A O Laoi for Mannion (54), P O Curraoin for Molloy (60).
Ref - C Branagan (Down).