Flynn firepower falls short as Cormac Costello steers Dubs to Leinster glory
Dublin 3-10 Kildare 1-12 (EIRGRID Leinster U-21 SF Final)
Dublin's grip on the provincial title remains firm after their fifth crown in seven years was secured in Navan last night.
They had to be patient as a spirited Kildare side, inspired by the magnificent accuracy of corner-forward Neil Flynn, who scored 0-11, really put it up to them.
Flynn's return, which included six frees, two 45s and a host of wonderful touches, was enough to earn him man of the match as he didn't miss a score on the night. It was a joy to watch the Maynooth man stand over each kick and deliver each time.
But the champions just had too much firepower, with the impressive Conor McHugh coming into the game strong and Cormac Costello poaching two goals.
Shane Carthy's probing runs and intelligent use of possession at midfield was another factor, but the real drive came from Eric Lowndes, who was such a forceful presence at half-back.
Kildare had the better of the early exchanges and were profiting from the unerring accuracy of Flynn. They also required Dublin goalkeeper Colin Heeney to be at his best to deny Colm Basquel from close range in the seventh minute.
But after the Lilies went 0-4 to 0-3 ahead, courtesy of a creative passage of play that involved David Hyland, Pascal Connell, Niall Kelly and Flynn providing the finish, Dublin pinned them back on the ropes with two heavy blows.
Costello was involved in both, first linking with Basquel, who was beginning to get on top of his duel with Brian Byrne, finishing low past Heeney on 21 minutes before McHugh sliced open the Kildare defence with a piercing run to tee up Costello, who had the presence of mind to calmly bat past Heeney just three minutes later for a 2-3 to 0-4 lead.
Kildare recovered, with David Fitzpatrick providing the assist for another Flynn score but Dublin had momentum and an Andy Foley point, quickly followed by a McHugh point from a superb Lowndes pass, franked that dominance.
But an effortless Flynn 45 and then a goal from Mark Sherry just before the break, after Paul Mescal's inviting delivery sufficiently discommoded the Dublin full-back line, threw Kildare a significant lifeline as they trailed by just 2-5 to 1-6 at the break.
They were relentless in the early stages of the second half, with the exhibition from Flynn continuing apace.
He nudged them two points clear by the 45th minute, 1-10 to 2-5, with four successive scores, including a delightful free off his less favoured left foot.
Without a score in the third quarter Dublin needed to draw on all their experience as a team that has been together under the tutelage of Dessie Farrell for so long.
And their patience was rewarded when Costello found himself in the right place at the right time to gather and score his second goal after a Basquel shot cannoned off an upright to restore a 3-5 to 1-10 lead.
It was their cue to kick on and put back-to-back titles together, although Flynn kept knocking over the frees and the defiant defence of David Hyland and Mescal prevented further leakage.
Kelly went off with what looked like a serious leg injury in the closing stages and that makes him a doubt for Kildare's crunch Division 2 clash with Galway on Sunday.
With his departure went any hope of a late Kildare rally as McHugh closed it out with the last two scores, including a penalty which he chipped over after Ryan Houlihan brought down Niall Scully, a foul for which he picked up a black card.
Dublin now play the Munster champions.
Man of the match: N Flynn (Kildare)
Scorers - Dublin: C Costello 2-2 (0-1f), C McHugh 0-5 (0-1 pen), C Basquel 1-0, S Carthy, A Foley, E Lowndes 0-1 each. Kildare: N Flynn 0-11 (6fs, 2 45s), M Sherry 1-0, N Kelly 0-1.
Dublin - L Molloy; D Byrne, E Murchan, E Mullan; E Lowndes, C Mullally, R McGowan; S Cunningham, S Carthy; N Scully, A Foley, G Burke; C Costello, C McHugh, C Basquel. Subs: E Fletcher for Mullan (32, inj), R Gaughan for Burke (37), A Byrne for Basquel (50), D O Cathmhaoil for Foley (52).
Kildare - C Heeney; B Byrne, D Maguire, P Mescal; R Houlihan, D Hyland, D Duke; R Moore, P Connell; C Fenner, D Fitzpatrick, M Sherry; N Flynn, N Kelly, C Healy. Subs: L Healy for Byrne (27), C McMonagle for Moore (37), D Flaherty for Healy (46), L Power for Connell (49), T Gibbons for Kelly (56, inj), J Costello for Houlihan BC (59)
Ref - N Ward (Westmeath)