Cyril's delight at Dubs victory
But manager Kevlihan warns of tough clash with Rebels to come
DUBLIN'S minor footballers can look forward to the All-Ireland with renewed confidence following their convincing Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship Final success over Kildare last Sunday afternoon.
Despite a less than convincing opening, the Dubs finally found their groove and a devastating second quarter showed the Blues in their best light and they took the game away from the Lilywhites.
Three goals inside the space of eight minutes proved Kildare's undoing as the Dubs produced their most compelling display of the championship to date, a fact acknowledged by team manager Cyril Kevlihan.
"I suppose we have improved with every game but that's the way that minor football generally is. It is progressive from that regard and if you have the good fortune to get through the opening rounds, then you get more chance to work on things.
"We had some tight matches against Longford and Meath earlier in the campaign, which were a real test for us and those wins helped built momentum.
"We fell behind early and were four points to one down at one stage but we held our nerve and shape and eventually came to grips with Kildare's tactical set-up and we found our way from that.
"To be fair to Kildare, they tested us tactically with their movement and their placements and we had to be wary of that.
"Once we came to grips with that, we went from strength to strength," said the Thomas Davis clubman.
That Dublin eventually came to grips with Kildare was largely down to the defensive efforts of the likes of Aodhán Fee and Eoin Murchan while Jack Mullins coped admirably with the constant threat of Kildare's full-forward Sean Dempsey.
In addition to that, Dublin enjoyed a marked dominance in the middle third through Eoghan McHugh and Andrew Foley and their aerial control had a debilitating effect on the Lilywhites.
Such was their fear of their competing for primary possession in the middle third, they took the dangerous option of trying to play through that crowded sector, turning over ball at regular intervals.
This allowed Dublin to enforce their disciplined tackling on their opponents and consequently led to numerous attacking opportunities close to goal.
Con O'Callaghan's goal at the end of the first quarter highlighted the threat that Dublin possessed and Kevlihan was fulsome in his praise for Dublin's captain as he assessed the Cuala clubman's contribution.
"He is a fine player and it is lovely to have him on your side. I wouldn't like to have him against us and he's a great leader both on and off the field.
"He is such a fine young man and we are delighted that he gave such an exceptional display," added Kevlihan.
O'Callaghan was one of a number of Dublin players to shine as the half progressed and it was instructive of their vibrancy that all six of the starting forwards registered at least a score from play.
Colm Basquel looks to have regained the confidence in his play from centre-forward while the versatile Aaron Byrne has highlighted his effectiveness as a corner-forward despite largely being recognised as a wing-back prior to this campaign.
The joy of successfully coming through Leinster was hugely noticeable in the Cusack Stand dressing rooms on Sunday with a provincial title still hugely relevant to those participating.
Kevlihan may have received numerous pats on the back on Sunday but he was quick to acknowledge the efforts of his panel in overcoming a side that had ended his provincial ambitions a year previously.
"It is a great feeling for everyone involved with the panel but it is the players that deserved all the credit.
"They have worked their socks off all year and they gained their due reward. It was a fine performance and everyone that participated played their part.
"It was great to do it in Croke Park in front out our own supporters and the lads enjoyed that experience," he added.
Losing to Kildare at the semi-final stage hurt Dublin last year so their delight in coming through on Sunday was tinted somewhat with a degree of atonement.
"It is a different year and a different body of players in some respects although for the lads involved last year, the disappointment of losing to Kildare last year possibly strengthened their resolve for this year.
"They are a year older and a year wiser and in many ways a year better now, " said Kevlihan.
The Rebels may have succumbed to Kerry in the Munster Final earlier in the month but there is no doubting their ability and potential at this grade and Dublin will need to continue their upward curve of development if national honours are to follow later in the year.
"In some ways it is a new ball game for us now entering the All-Ireland series but we have always taken things one match at a time and we will start focussing our attentions on Cork now.
"Cork are a very strong team, despite losing the Munster Final to Kerry and Munster in general is an especially strong province so that's going to be a major test for us.
"We are in there now and we will look forward to preparing for that and giving it our best shot.
"I'm sure Cork were having a look at us today and they are certainly a fine side but we will just look at things as the start of a new phase," said Kevlihan.
For now, Dublin can enjoy regaining the Leinster Championship that eluded them twelve months ago and given the incremental improvements that have been a hallmark of their campaign to date, they will unquestionably provide stiff opposition for whoever they meet from here.