Tom Fox and Stephen Smith goals earn Dublin fourth successive Leinster title

Dublin 2-14, Offaly 0-8: Goals from Tom Fox and Stephen Smith propelled Dublin to a fourth EirGrid Leinster U21 football championship title on the trot, another record for Sky Blues supporters to savour.

Fox helped himself to 1-2 in all in Portlaoise while Smith’s late, late goal glossed the scoreline as the holders secured a 14th title, also a record.

Man of the Match Aaron Byrne fired four points from play too, the same tally as boy wonder Con O’Callaghan.

Aside from entering the history books as the first Leinster county to achieve four-in-a-row - four days on from the seniors’ win over Roscommon which set a 35-match unbeaten record - Dublin’s reward for the landmark win is an April 15 All-Ireland semi-final clash with the Ulster winners.

Boss Dessie Farrell will demand an improvement though because Dublin played in patches in what has been the theme of their campaign despite a series of comfortable wins.

They were still red hot favourites to progress after victories over Westmeath and Longford and it was no surprise that Dublin forged clear with a 0-6 to 0-2 lead by the end of the opening quarter.

They cut through the centre of Offaly’s defence with alarming ease initially in front of 2,055 and Dan O’Brien had a second minute goal ruled out for an infringement in the build up.

Chris Sallier also had a shot deflected into the side netting for a 15th minute 45 that Byrne converted, opening up that four-point advantage.

The scores simply came easier to Dublin who linked up well and consistently found Byrne, their two-goal hero against Westmeath, as the sharpened point of their attack. He hit hit three early points in a row and there were also scores from Fox, Glenn O’Reilly and Sallier.

O’Reilly was one of three late additions to his team as Farrell made sweeping changes from the official lineup again.

Colm Basquel, an All-Ireland senior medalist and Sigerson Cup winner in 2016, missed out again due to injury though was named on the bench.

Offaly took over for the 10 minutes or so approaching half-time and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.

Shane Tierney was Offaly’s principal attacker and kicked his third point from play to leave them 0-7 to 0-4 down.

They were tentative in attack generally though and were left to rue eight first-half wides in all. Dublin took full advantage of that profligacy by finishing the half with a bang and back to back to points from Eoin Murchan and O’Callaghan.

That left Dublin with a double scores 0-10 to 0-5 lead that they scarcely deserved but which they ruthlessly built upon.

They made Offaly pay for all those wides by kicking 1-2 without reply in nine minutes after the restart.

O’Callaghan played Fox in for the 34th minute goal and Dublin led 1-12 to 0-5 before Offaly finally broke their own scoring deadlock through Tierney again.

Dublin took their foot off the gas for a period and went 16 minutes without a point before O’Callaghan booted two.

Offaly fought back with three points in a row at one stage but needed a goal to have any hope of rescuing a result and it never arrived.

And Smith added Dublin’s second goal in injury-time when he finished off a neat passing move with a low left footed finish from close range.

Scorers for Dublin:

T. Fox (1-2); C. O’Callaghan (2 frees), A. Byrne (1 ‘45) (0-4 each); S. Smith (1-0); G. O’Reilly (0-2); C. Sallier, E. Murchan (0-1 each)

Scorers for Offaly:

S. Tierney (0-4, 1 free); J. Hayes (0-3, 2 frees); R. McEvoy (0-1).

DUBLIN:

E. Comerford; D. Monaghan, S. McMahon, D. Byrne; E. Murchan, C. O’Shea, C. Murphy; A. Foley, B. Howard; T. Fox, D. O’Brien, A Byrne; C. Sallier, C. O’Callaghan, G. O’Reilly.

Subs for Dublin:

S. Smith for Sallier (41); S. Bugler for O’Brien (42); D. Gavin for Fox (48); A. Elliott for O’Reilly (51); A. McGowan for Monaghan (57).

OFFALY:

B. Rohan; C. Horan, D. Dempsey, C. Doyle; A. Mahon, PJ Daly, J. Egan; J. Lalor, J. Hayes; C. Farrell, R. McNamee, J. Walsh; R. McEvoy, P. Dunican, S. Tierney.

Subs for Offaly:

K. Higgins for Mahon (41); J. Clancy for Dunican (49); C. Stewart for Egan (62).

Referee:

D. Hickey (Carlow).


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Frits Potgieter is General Manager with Muckross Park Hotel and Spa.You've Been Served: Frits Potgieter, Muckross Park Hotel and Spa

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