Laois u21s 2-10 Dublin u21s 2-21: When the dust settles on the 2015 season, Dessie Farrell and his Dublin U21 footballers might well look back on this one as the one that crowned them.
Power-packed and full of running for so long, Dublin had to endure a nervy period in the second half before coming through against Laois at O’Moore Park, as expected.
The reigning provincial and All-Ireland champions might have been missing injured forward Cormac Costello but they still lined out with seven of the team that started last year’s All-Ireland final victory over Roscommon.
And yet they were given one hell of a test by Laois, who rallied from seven points down early in the first half to lead by one within five minutes of the restart.
Niall Scully’s 37th minute free for Dublin levelled matters before Laois shot themselves in the foot with three terrible wides at a critical juncture.
Dublin, who were 1-11 to 2-9 down when Evan O’Carroll nudged Laois ahead, kept cool and were 1-19 to 2-9 clear on the back of a run of eight unanswered points.
It was clinical, devastating stuff but wholly symptomatic of a patchy Dublin display.
When they opened up, Dublin’s running power, movement and interplay was almost impossible for Laois to cope with.
The problem with such a high-octane game is how difficult it is to sustain that level of intensity for an hour and when Dublin dropped off, Laois took advantage.
Both halves were cases in point. Dublin roared out of the blocks with the opening five points before Laois had time to get sweaty.
Killian O’Gara, younger brother of Dublin senior star Eoghan, netted in the eleventh minute and when last year’s All-Ireland final man of the match Conor McHugh added a point, the Sky Blues led by 1-6 to 0-2. It seemed a case of how many Dublin would win by then, as they also hit the woodwork twice in the first half. But Laois, playing with a slight breeze, had some fight in them as captain Alan Farrell bombed through from midfield for a sweetly-taken goal in the 13th minute.Another eleven minutes later from Tom Sheil, two-goal hero against Wexford in the previous round, had Laois back in contention and within touching distance at the break, 2-5 to 1-11 adrift.
Remarkably, the home contingent in a crowd estimated around the 1,000 mark were sensing the possibility of a shock upset early in the second half.
O’Carroll, Sheil (free), Paul Kingston and O’Carroll again notched points to put Laois one up but following that Scully equaliser, the O’Moore boys fell to pieces as their composure failed them in good shooting positions, including a free from Sheil that dropped short and into the side-netting.
Dublin’s response was typically ruthless as they unleashed another period of lung-bursting runs that opened up all sorts of gaps in the Laois defence.
And Dublin’s semi-final clash with Longford was long assured by the time that Shane Carthy registered a second goal at the death to leave the final scoreboard with a flattering look.
Scorers for Laois: T Sheil 1-3 (0-3f), A Farrell 1-0, E O’Carroll 0-3, P Kingston 0-2, E Keane & D O’Reilly 0-1 each.
Scorers for Dublin: C McHugh 0-6 (1f), K O’Gara 1-3, S Carthy 1-1, N Scully 0-4 (2f), M Deegan & C Basquel 0-2 each, E Lowndes, E Murchin & N Walsh 0-1 each.
LAOIS: A O’Reilly; L Knowles, K Lennon, C Dunne; P O’Sullivan, C Hogan, D O’Reilly; E O’Carroll, P Kingston; N Murphy, J Moore, A Farrell; T Sheil, E Lowry, E Keane.
Subs: N Mullen for Murphy (h.t.), R.C. Fennell for Dunne (51), C Maher for Keane (53), D Hickey for Farrell (56), E Buggie for Hogan (60+2).
DUBLIN: L Molloy; E Mullan, D Byrne, R McGowan; E Lowndes, C Mullally, E Murchin; Stephen Cunningham, S Carthy; R Gaughan, M Deegan, N Scully; K O’Gara, C McHugh, C Basquel.
Subs: N Walsh for Gaughan (h.t.), D Ó’Cathmhaoil for Cunningham (36), S Clayton for Deegan (37), G Burke for Basquel (b/c 56), Shane Cunningham for Scully (57), A Byrne for O’Gara (59).
Referee: S Murphy (Louth).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved