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Monday 23 October 2017

Dessie Farrell's Dub cubs off to a flyer with Laois win

McHugh, Scully and Lowndes star for U21s

Robbie Gaughan, Dublin, in action against Patrick O'Sullivan, left, and Alan Farrell, Laois.
Robbie Gaughan, Dublin, in action against Patrick O'Sullivan, left, and Alan Farrell, Laois.
Robbie Gaughan, Dublin, in action against Conor Hogan, Laois.

DUBLIN have never won consecutive All-Ireland Under 21 titles but this year's team produced a performance of genuine potential in Portlaoise last night.

As first steps go, this one was firm and assured, if not entirely without wobble.

Wielding eight players who played in last year's All-Ireland final and 11 who started the corresponding All-Ireland minor win in 2012, Dessie Farrell's team won by 2-21 to 2-10, a margin not entirely kind to or reflective of the efforts of Laois.

But Dublin's superiority was definite, even if they contrived to make life difficult for themselves.

On 35 minutes, after Laois exploded into the second half with four consecutive points, the teams were level (Dublin having briefly trailed by one) when the O'Moore men kicked three bad wides in succession, each a little reprieve to Dublin.

They didn't need to be asked any more than once to capitalise on those Laois doubts.

Dubs1.jpg
Stephen Cunningham, Dublin, in action against Liam Knowles, Laois. EirGrid Leinster U21 Football Championship, Quarter-Final, Laois v Dublin, O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, Co. Laois

Led by the calm heads of Conor McHugh, Eric Lowndes and Niall Scully (all survivors of last year's success), Dublin kicked the next seven scores to punish, in the most severe way possible, Laois' inaccuracy.

Early signs weren't great for Laois.

Dublin were missing Cormac Costello through injury but had Conor McHugh, the Man of the Match and scorer of 1-6 in last year's final win over Roscommon, in Tullamore.

More pertinently, with four minutes and 44 seconds on the clock, Dublin had five points registered, one in each minute of play.

No wides. No scutched efforts.

Just slick movement and precision passing and neat finishing.

And Laois probably hadn't reckoned on Killian O'Gara (who, in gait and physique is, from only short distance, the spit of his older brother Eoghan), who scored 1-3 from play.

Dubs2.jpg
4 March 2015; Evan O'Carroll, Laois, in action against Daithi O'Cathmhaoil, Dublin. EirGrid Leinster U21 Football Championship, Quarter-Final, Laois v Dublin, O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Indeed - and as tends to be the case with Farrell's teams - Dublin created a kaleidoscope of goal chances.

They showed absolutely no signs of slowing either but signs of danger were imminent.

Laois began with their two noted scoring threats, Evan O'Carroll and Paul Kingston, playing as de facto midfielders but when Eoin Lowry sped through, he lacked either of the aforementioned's calm or cuteness and ignored the space in front of Lorcan Molloy and the outrider on his inside to ineffectively blast at the Dublin goalkeeper.

Dublin, apparently, were leaky and if Laois were guilty of providing ample room for the Dubs forwards to do their thing, the visitors repaid the compliment.

O'Gara's goal restored that atmosphere of Dublin comfort and he had another effort tipped onto the crossbar by Laois 'keeper, Adam Reilly.

But when Tom Sheil wrapped around the outside of the Dubs' cover to blast the second goal, any hope of any easy second half ride was killed.

carving

Emboldened, O'Carroll (2), Sheil and Kingston put Laois one up, carving neat Laois-shaped holes in the Dublin defence with some intricate handpassing before Niall Scully - hugely energetic throughout - levelled it with a free.

It was, in terms of momentum, just a temporary reprieve but Laois couldn't find the arrows. Sheil kicked a free into the side netting.

Then Evin Keane lobbed an effort wide to the right before sub Niall Mullen wasted possession with a flaked effort from 30 metres.

That doubt was all Dublin needed.

Lowndes continuously powered through from deep and McHugh took the smart, hand-passed point option twice to begin a run of scores that would only end when Dublin were out of sight.

Shane Cathy popped up with a powered finish to embellish the scoreline.

Dublin have Longford - their conquerors in 2013 - next in two week's time.

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