Roscommon weren’t quite gone in 60 seconds at Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday evening but two Dublin goals inside the first four minutes certainly laid a strong foundation for victory.
David Quinn scored the first after a slight touch on Cian Mullins’ long delivery deceived the goalkeeper while Dean Rock converted the second from a penalty.
It helped Dublin to lead 2-2 to 0-1 after five minutes and while they endured some nervous moments, going 26 minutes without another score and losing Ted Furman to a 41st minute red card, they never led by less than three points.
Next up for talented young Dubs like Gary Sweeney, Nicky Devereux, Darragh Nelson and Ciaran Dorney is a date with Donegal in the final – and a huge chance to impress senior boss Pat Gilroy ahead of the championship.
“It’s good for Dublin football,” enthused Gavin. “It shows the squad we have is strong and I think one of our aims every year with the U21s is to prepare players for the senior grade. I think senior management will be looking very hard at some of the players.”
The last Dublin U21 team to reach and win, a final, Tommy Lyons’ class of 2003, spawned senior stars like Alan Brogan, Conal Keaney, Bryan Cullen and current captain Paul Griffin.
The latest bunch are an enigmatic gathering. They have great pace and invention, particularly in players like Devereux and Sweeney, but need to improve at midfield where they were cleaned out at times by Donie Shine who led Roscommon’s revival from the middle after those early goals.
And just like the Leinster champions’ games against Louth, Carlow and Westmeath, Dublin retreated into themselves at times and were put to the pin of their collars.
But heart, character and no little skill, particularly from inspirational wing-forward Sweeney, shone through as Dublin finished the job.
They hit seven points in the final quarter including three from lively sub Robert McCarthy to win with ease despite playing with 14 men.
“People might look at us coming in or out of games but every team has a different tempo,” continued Gavin.
“That’s just our tempo. There’s a great resolve there and a great willingness to work for each other.”
Roscommon manager Jimmy Gacquin, who led Longford to the 2002 Leinster minor title, described the fourth-minute penalty call for an apparent push on Furman as very harsh. Indeed, selector and former senior goalkeeper Shane Curran had to be restrained as he confronted referee Ciaran Branagan at half-time.
Whatever about the penalty call, Roscommon were their own worst enemies with some poor shot selection and errant shooting when they dominated possession in that first half.
“We had several chances,” lamented Gacquin. “Some days they go over for you but they just would not go over.
“There’s eight of that starting team underage again next year. So that’s a positive. And, you know, if we hadn’t conceded two goals in the early minutes it could’ve been a different story.”
DUBLIN: V Whelan; E Culligan, R O’Carroll, D Nelson; J Cooper, S Murray, N Devereux (0-1); J McCarthy, C Mullins (0-1); C Dorney (0-1), D Rock (1-2; 1-0 pen, 1f), G Sweeney (0-1); B O’Rorke (0-1), D Quinn, (1-0), T Furman. Subs: M Coughlan and J McDermott for Dorney & McCarthy h/t, R McCarthy (0-3) for O’Rorke 33, C Reddin for Quinn 57, N Brogan for Devereux 60.
ROSCOMMON: D O’Malley; P O’Grady, N Collins, M Higgins; J McKeague, N Daly, E Bannon; N Carty (0-1), K Higgins (0-1); P Garvey, C Shine, B Murtagh; N Kilroy (0-1), D Shine (0-4; 4f), D McDermott (0-1). Subs: A O’Hara for C Shine 21, E Kenny for Murtagh 45, E Sheehy for Collins 52, L O’Connor for Garvey 58.
Referee: C Branagan (Down).