Dublin U20 manager Tom Gray expressed relief after surviving Galway’s spirited challenge in the Eirgrid All-Ireland football semi-final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park.
Ciarán Archer scored two Dublin goals inside the opening six minutes, and after Galway fought back to level the game early in the second-half, Dublin finished with a bang, scoring eight of the last nine points for victory.
The Leinster champions will look back on a key moment in this game seven minutes from time when goalkeeper David O’Hanlon clawed away Matthew Tierney’s goal-bound shot, before Ross McGarry, Niall O’Leary, James Doran and Archer tagged on points for the impressive Dubs.
“It didn’t feel comfortable on the sideline. The scoreline didn’t reflect the game. That was a three-point game we just tagged on a few scores at the end,” said Gray.
“Galway are an excellent team. We knew it was going to be a huge battle but our fellas responded very well in the closing stages and worked a few good scores. That was the winning of the game. I am happy but we are not finished yet.
“We have another game to go and hopefully we can produce a decent performance again in the final.”
With four All-Ireland wins this decade in the old U21 championship, this U20 team looks to have more than its quota of players primed for progression to the senior grade.
Like Jim Gavin’s side, Gray’s team were very efficient under their own kickouts while at midfield they have a powerful partnership of Peadar Ó Cofaigh Byrne and Donal Ryan.
But Galway will look at their slack opening with huge regret. Two long diagonal balls from Karl Lynch Bissett caught the Galway full-back line napping and under protected, and Acher hit the net in the fourth and sixth minutes.
After that Galway recovered brilliantly. Brian Harlowe’s excellent team goal after 18 minutes and a couple of Tony Gill points meant they only trailed by 2-6 to 1-4 at half-time.
With Liam Boyle and Liam Costello driving their side Galway kicked the first five points of the second-half to draw level, but they would never lead as Dublin kicked on to win.
This has been an impressive introduction to inter-county management for Pádraic Joyce though. They blitzed Mayo in the Connacht final and at times in Longford they were well on top of Dublin.
“I’m absolutely gutted for the lads, the effort that they put in all year. We were chasing shadows after the first three or four minutes,” said Joyce.
“They were two soft goals we gave away. It was not the place we wanted to be. We wanted to be the other way around.
“But in fairness to the lads they showed huge heart and commitment to come back out. They got the game level. But Dublin were the better team on the day.”
C Archer 2-6 (0-4f), R McGarry 0-3, B O’Leary 0-2, D Lacey 0-1, N O’Leary 0-1, J Doran 0-1.
T Gill 0-3, P Costello 0-3 (0-2f), B Harlowe 1-0, R Cunningham 0-2, M Tierney 0-1, L Boyle 0-1.
D O’Hanlon; D Maher, D Newcombe, N Matthews; K Kennedy, E O’Dea, S Lambe; P Ó Cofaigh Byrne, D Ryan; N O’Leary, K Lynch Bissett, J Doran; B O’Leary, C Archer, R McGarry.
A Lynch for Maher (44), D Lacey for Ryan (44), H Ladd for B O’Leary (63).
O Burke; R Mahon, S Mulkerrin, E McFadden; L Boyle, C Potter, J Kirrane; M Barrett, M Tierney; B Harlowe, L Costello, T Gill; D Silke, P Costello, R Cunningham.
J Glynn for Kirrane (7), C Newell for Harlowe (28), C Campbell for Potter (40), M O’Brien for Glynn (48), E Mannion for Gill (50), B O’Connell for L Costello (58).
Pádraig Hughes (Armagh).