EirGrid All-Ireland U-21 Football Final
DUBLIN 2-13 GALWAY 2-7
By John Harrington at O’Connor Park, Tullamore
Dublin football inked another entry in the record-books with this well-deserved EirGrid All-Ireland U-21 Final victory over Galway.
They’ll forever be known as the last team to win this competition, which will make way next year for an All-Ireland U-20 Championship.
A hall-mark of Dublin teams at all grades in recent years has been their tactical acumen and proficiency in the technical skills of the game, and both were on show again in this match.
Their well-structured defence which featured Seán McMahon as a very influential sweeper largely tied down a Galway forward sextet that had looked so impressive in the semi-final against Kerry but only managed three points from play here.
Their key man – captain and centre-forward Michael Daly – produced a couple of flashy moments, but he was largely kept in check by the disciplined man-marking of the considerably smaller Eoin Murchan who lived up to the old adage that it’s the size of the fight in the dog that counts for most.
Dublin were more than just solid at the back, they counter-attacked with great effect too thanks in no small part to some brilliant transition play from midfielder Brian Howard, and it all proved too much for a Galway team that tried their hearts out but were simply out-played by a smarter team.
Galway captain Daly won the toss and elected to play with the stiff breeze in the first-half, but it would have little impact on the flow of the game in those first 30 minutes.
Kicking the ball long wasn’t really an option for Galway because Dublin had a numerical advantage in defence thanks to McMahon’s status as a spare man, so they generally swallowed any long deliveries and mopped up most breaking ball.
Playing more patiently through the hands wasn’t proving much more successful for Galway who struggled to break through the Dublin defensive line and then found themselves caught on the break when they committed too many men forward.
When Dublin turned over the ball they moved it quickly down the field and made the most of the wide open spaces that Galway had left in front of the their full-back line.
Colm Basquel in particular was getting on a lot of ball, and two sniping points from him had helped Dublin into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead by the 18th minute.
Galway were fortunate that Dublin fluffed a good number of other clear-cut chances, and something of a revival from the Tribesmen saw them reduce the deficit to just a point – 0-5 to 0-4 – by the break.
The crucial period of the match came in the ten minutes after half-time when Dublin blitzed Galway with an unanswered salvo of 1-4 from play.
The goal was scored by Con O’Callaghan and came courtesy of some really slick inter-play that ended with Aaron Byrne lofting a perfectly placed hand-pass over the defensive cover and into the path of O’Callaghan who had the simple task of palming it to the back of the net.
Leading by eight points, it looked like Dublin were going to run away with the game, but Galway refused to raise the white flag and were rewarded for that perseverance when defender Cillian McDaid charged forward for a great goal.
His fellow wing-back, Kieran Molloy, followed up immediately with a point to reduce the gap to four, and we suddenly had a game on our hands again.
The game was effectively settled though by a minute of football that Galway will reflect on regretfully.
Ruairí Greene was unlucky to see his well-struck shot at goal rebound off the inside of the Dublin upright, but it looked like Galway would at least come away from that attack with a point when they won a close-range free.
But it was hooked wide, and Dublin came straight down the field from the resulting kick-out and scored a goal of their own when Aaron Byrne raced through and finished coolly.
Galway kept plugging away and did manage to hit the back of the net late on again through substitute Colm Brennan, but by then they had run out of time.
That’s four All-Ireland U-21 titles now in the last eight years for Dublin, whose status as the main super-power of Gaelic Football shows little sign of diminishing in the short-term at least.
Scorers for Dublin: Con O’Callaghan 1-3 (2f 1pen), Aaron Byrne 1-0, Glenn O’Reilly 0-3, Dan O’Brien 0-2, Colm Basquel 0-2, Brian Howard 0-1, Stephen Smith 0-1, Darren Gavin 0-1.
Scorers for Galway: Cillian McDaid 1-1, Colm Brennan 1-0, Kieran Molloy 0-1, Paul Mannion 0-1, Eoin Finnerty 0-1, Michael Daly 0-1, Colin Brady 0-1, Peter Cooke 0-1 (f)
Dublin: Evan Comerford; Darren Byrne, Sean McMahon, Declan Monaghan; Cillian O’Shea, Eoin Murchan, Cian Murphy; Andrew Foley, Brian Howard; Dan O’Brien, Glenn O’Reilly, Aaron Byrne; Colm Basquel, Con O’Callaghan, Tom Fox. Subs: Darren Gavin for Andrew Foley (13), Darragh Spillane for Tom Fox (39), Chris Sallier for Glenn O’Rielly (45), Andrew McGowan for Sean McMahon (58), Paddy Small for Colm Basquel (60)
Galway: Ronan Ó Beoláin; Liam Kelly, Sean Andy Ó Ceallaigh, Ruairí Greene; Kieran Molloy, Dylan McHugh, Cillian McDaid; Peter Cooke, Cein D’Arcy; Séan Kelly, Michael Daly, Paul Mannion; Robert Finnerty, Eoin Finnerty, Dessie Connelly. Subs: Colin Brady for Robert Finnerty (ht), Colm Brennan for Cein D’Arcy (36), Michael Boyle for Dessie Conneely (39), Eric Lee for Sean Kelly (44), for Antaine Ó Laoi for Paul Mannion (53), Pádraic O Curraoin for Kieran Molloy (58)
Ref: Ciarán Branagan
REPORT FROM GAA.IE