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Farrell savours Dubs' day of redemption

YOU couldn't help thinking that one particularly inspirational man was smiling down from the heavens when Dublin's minors finally got over the line yesterday.

Ballyboden giant Jim Stynes was part of the last Dublin minor football team to win the All-Ireland all of 28 years ago and, given the inspirational leadership he gave to youth in his life, few would have appreciated yesterday's long-awaited victory as much as the late AFL star.

Several of the current baby Dubs had their hearts broken in both underage finals last year so it was no surprise that full-forward Cormac Costello threw his arms to the skies at the final whistle and screamed with delight.

It wasn't pretty at times and Dublin often looked wracked with nerves, but Costello, like wing-back star Eric Lowndes, finally got that cherished minor medal from their fourth minor final appearance.


And it's not over yet, as both players, along with Conor McHugh and Donal Gormley, will likely start again in next Sunday's hurling replay.

"We felt we left it behind us last year, so it is just great to come back and for these lads to finally reach their goal at such an important time in their lives," manager Dessie Farrell said.

Dublin's football future certainly looks bright but, after beating Meath by 12 points in this year's Leinster final, this rematch was never going to be as easy. As expected, the young Royals, using James McEntee as an excellent sweeper, came with a firm defensive plan that proved very difficult to break down.

"I think someone said the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result so we knew that, and felt it was important to be with them with 10 minutes to go," said Meath manager Andy McEntee.

His side also gave the winners an early fright when, just 48 seconds after throw-in, Jason Daly slipped the ball through to an unmarked Fiachra Ward and he forced Dublin 'keeper Lorcan Molloy into a great point-blank save.

Having lost to Dublin twice earlier this season, Meath were hoping this would be third time lucky and they threw the gauntlet down, with just two points separating the sides after 15 minutes.

Then Dublin got a great goal chance themselves, only for McEntee to make a great block on Shane Carthy, who still managed to fist the rebound over the bar.

Yet, even though Dublin dominated possession, with Stephen Cunningham working tirelessly in midfield and Lowndes and Maitias MacDonncha excellent at wing-back, they kept running into blind alleys offensively.

Costello was often surrounded by three markers but when he finally landed a booming point from 40 metres in the 29th minute to end an 11-minute stalemate it gave them a huge boost.

Two minutes later, McHugh won a free which Costello slotted to send Dublin in five points clear (0-7 to 0-2) at half-time but Meath's tireless defence meant they could never cut loose.

Dublin threatened to do so on the restart when Gavin Burke ghosted inside but, with the goal at his mercy, he fisted wide and his team-mates then wasted another three opportunities before Niall Scully put Dublin six points clear.

But the work-rate of Cillian O'Sullivan and Daly and the introduction of Harry Rooney and Patrick Kennelly really seemed to lift Meath in the third quarter and Rooney earned a free which Ward, younger brother of county senior Cian, pointed for the Royals' first score in 27 minutes.

Then came a huge deja-vu moment when, in their second consecutive game, Meath won a penalty for a foot-block when Kennelly was fouled in the goalmouth and Ward slotted it to leave just a point between the sides with 16 minutes left.

However, Dublin's swift response -- a great long-range free by Carthy and a super point off the wing by Niall Walsh -- put them three points clear again within as many minutes. And when the Dubs tagged on another three points without reply they were out of danger, though Conor Mulally was forced to make a great clearance off the line from Brian Power in the dying minutes.

Dublin seemed to be over-ambitious with their last pass for a long time but when they finally got into their rhythm they closed it out impressively.

And while their talented forwards always get much of the credit, their midfield and defence, who conceded just six scores, deserve a lot of it, with full-back captain David Byrne and Lowndes particularly impressive and David Campbell also doing well off the bench.

Scorers -- Dublin: C Costello 0-5 (4f), S Carthy 0-3 (2f), N Scully, N Walsh 0-2 each, E Lowndes, D Campbell 0-1 each. Meath: F Ward 1-2 (1-0 pen, 2f), C O'Sullivan, J McEntee, P Kennelly 0-1 each.

Dublin -- L Molloy 8; E Mullan 8, D Byrne (capt) 9, R McGowan 8; E Lowndes 9, C Mulally 7, M McDonncha 8; S Cunningham 8, S Carthy 8; G Burke 7, C McHugh 8, N Walsh 8; R Gaughan 8, C Costello 9, N Scully 8. Subs: S Cunningham 7 for Gaughan (39), D Gormley 7 for Burke (43), D Campbell 8 for Walsh (54), M Deegan for Scully (62).

Meath -- R Burlingham 7; R O'Coilean 7, B Power 8, S Gallagher 7; D Smyth 6, P Harnan (capt) 6, S Lavin 6; S McEntee 7, A Flanagan 6; C O'Sullivan 9, J Daly 8, J McEntee 8; B Dardis 6, F Ward 7, S Coogan 6. Subs: P Kennelly 8 for Dardis (24), H Rooney 7 for Coogan (37), C Carton 6 for Smyth (48), C O'Griofa 7 for Ward (54), C O'Brien for Daly (62).

Ref -- B Cassidy (Derry)

Irish Independent