An assured Dublin side turned on the afterburners at just the right time to see off a difficult Roscommon challenge and win the county’s second U-21 All-Ireland crown in three years.
The seven-point margin hardly reflected what was a tense affair up until the last six minutes when Dublin took charge in front of a Roscommon-dominated 10,490 crowd at O’Connor Park, Tullamore
Winning manager Jim Gavin said he never doubted his team even when they saw their two-point half-time lead evaporate and transform into a two-point deficit eight minutes into the second-half.
“No, not at all. I know each of those guys who wore the Dublin jersey, and I knew that they were going to keep their composure and discipline, which they did. They stuck to the game-plan and expressed themselves as footballers which is fantastic to see, particularly with such a hostile crowd and with the Roscommon team playing extremely well.”
The high fielding of Emmet Ó Conghaile as well as the input from some early second-half substitutes helped turn the tide Dublin’s way as the Leinster champions hit 1-6 without reply.
Roscommon had been so good for their lead with their full-forward line doing most of the damage.
But in a carbon copy of the latter stages of the first-half, Dublin began to take control around the middle, especially for Roscommon’s kickouts.
“We probably had a couple of more chances that we should have taken and didn’t and that gave Dublin the momentum to come back into it,” rued Roscommon manager Nigel Dineen.
“They’d a purple patch then for the last 15 minutes and we were completely outplayed by them. Their bench was very strong when they came on, they were bringing in big men, one after another, and that pushed them forward.”
Dublin finished both halves the stronger, scoring 1-4 and 1-6 in the last 15 minutes of each.
While Roscommon had the better of the exchanges at the start of each, seven of their 11 points coming across those 15-minute periods.
With the wind at their backs at the restart, they made light work of cutting back Dublin’s 1-5 to 0-6 lead.
Donie Smith levelled it up with a point from play and a free within six minutes. Cian Connolly then kicked a beautiful effort from the outside of his left boot and a massive Colin Compton point restored a lead they previously enjoyed in the 20th minute.
Paul Hudson and Donal Keane, Roscommon’s Dublin born and bred player, exchanged points but it turned out to be the Connacht champions’ last score of the game.
With Dublin’s midfield motoring again, Ciarán Kilkenny came to life with regular delivery and banged over a point either side of scores from John Kelly and substitutes Gerry Seaver and Harry Dawson.
Now three points down with three minutes left, Roscommon’s race was run and a tired Paddy Brogan foul allowed Kilkenny to boot his fourth point of the game.
Paul Mannion’s goal in injury-time was the icing on the cake but the contest was over.
After starting so well, Roscommon looked out on their feet. They were always going to attempt to come out of the traps quick and they achieved that, going four points to one up by the 19th minute.
Niall Kilroy was pulling the strings from centre-forward but all the scoring from the inside forwards in the opening stages.
Smith stuck over a free after he was fouled by Dublin captain Kevin O’Brien and then Compton fired over another following Ó Conghaile’s infringement on Niall Daly in the ninth minute.
Hudson opened Dublin’s ledger in the 13th minute before Cian Connolly, taking receipt of a Smith pass, and Smith himself posted points.
Roscommon were aggressive, Brogan’s hit on Ó Conghaile an indication that they weren’t going to lie down as some had anticipated.
“I suspect some pundits mightn’t have looked at tapes of the Roscommon team playing,” said Gavin. “We knew the challenge we were going to face. There were no surprises on our part when Roscommon pushed hard in both halves.”
A quick-fire brace from Hudson brought Dublin back into the game and his fellow inside forwards Kilkenny and Philly Ryan also got themselves on the scoresheet, Ryan’s point putting Dublin ahead.
With Dublin in the ascendancy (they won seven Roscommon kick-outs in a row), a long ball into their domain two minutes into injury-time was fumbled and allowed Hudson to slot in a goal.
Compton responded immediately, an indication of the character Roscommon displayed on the day but ultimately fell short of lifting the Clarke Cup.
Scorers for Dublin: P Hudson 1-4; C Kilkenny 0-4 (1f); P Mannion 1-0; P Ryan, J Kelly, G Seaver, H Dawson 0-1 each.
Scorers for Roscommon: D Smith 0-4 (2 frees); C Compton (1f) 0-3; C Connolly, D Keane 0-2 each.
Subs for Dublin: P Maguire for Schutte (h-t); G Seaver for Byrne (34); H Dawson for Ryan (41); P O’Higgins for Reddin (inj 42); P Mannion for Hudson (58).
Subs for Roscommon: J McManus for Keane (inj 48); F Cregg for Stack (55); C Murtagh for Connolly (58); F Kelly for N Daly (59).
Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).
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