'Double' top for Dessie's Dub cubs
Flynn heroics not enough as Blues hit late flourish
A PULSATING EirGrid Leinster U21 football final that crackled with electricity throughout eventually went the way of the reigning All-Ireland champions, Dublin, at Navan last night.
An individual masterclass of point-taking by Kildare's Neil Flynn had pushed Dessie Farrell's Dubs to the edge of the precipice, as a six-point cushion shortly before half-time mutated into a two-point deficit at the three-quarter mark.
But then a third Dublin goal - and second from Cormac Costello - turned this oscillating contest on its head once more.
From there until the finish, the Lilies were playing a brave but futile game of catch-up. Conor McHugh came into his own for the holders, scoring four of their last five points - including a 60th minute penalty which he arced well over, intentionally it seemed, to stretch the lead to three.
Last year's U21 'Hero of the Future' then added an injury-time insurance point, sealing a four-point victory that barely seemed possible midway through the half.
While David Byrne lifted the cup for Dublin, there was minor consolation for losing corner-forward Flynn who was named 'Man of the Match' on the strength of a majestic 0-11 haul - comprising three from play, two '45s', five thumping frees off his right foot and even one placed ball off his left.
Ultimately, though, the more rounded contribution of the Dublin full-forward line held sway. They delivered 3-5 from play, 3-7 in total, made up of Costello's 2-2, 0-5 from McHugh and a goal from Colm Basquel.
An insidiously heavy drizzle set a dank scene for this Páirc Tailteann collision between the two heavyweights of Leinster U21 football. Dublin's victory over Meath last year had edged them back ahead of Kildare in Leinster's roll call - 11 titles to ten - and they were 1/3 favourites to bring up the dozen.
They also boasted a welter of big-game experience, with eight of last year's All-Ireland winning team in Dessie Farrell's line-up - plus senior ace Shane Carthy and Stephen Cunningham, a sub last season, forming a dynamic midfield pairing.
Yet it was the underdogs who started more brightly, Niall Kelly hitting an excellent fourth minute point under pressure - Dublin's early uncertainty encapsulated by Lorcan Molloy's subsequent kickout over the sideline.
At the other end, Basquel turned his man to get a sight on goal, Colin Heeney saving smartly with his feet. Yet, for much of that opening quarter, the Kildare defence was on top and when Flynn hit a confident free from the left wing, they led by 0-2 to 0-0.
Finally, with the game ticking into its 14th minute, Dublin found their range when McHugh set up Costello for their opening point. It was like the 46A bus, as two points came all at once, Carthy scoring impressively from distance within a minute. This was followed by the lead point, Costello converting his own free.
Yet, any notion of Dublin serenely pulling away was quashed by a brilliant brace from Flynn - the first a free from the turf, the second capitalising on slick foot-passing approach work by Kelly and Chris Fenner.
Thus, they led 0-4 to 0-3 before the game took another pivotal turn with two Dublin goals in the space of 120 seconds.
Basquel helped create and then finish the first, playing a one-two with Costello before scoring with a clinical low finish after 21 minutes.
Two minutes later, McHugh left Darren Maguire in his slipstream and his handpassed assist left the lurking Costello with a routine fisted finish.
When McHugh capitalised on a sublime Eric Lowndes pass into his chest, to nail his first point, they led 2-5 to 0-5 with half-time approaching.
But then, in stoppage-time, Kildare hit back with a 1-1 salvo to give them renewed hope. First, as Emile Mullan trooped off injured after a brave diving block, Flynn converted the resultant '45'.
Then Paul Mescal's crossfield delivery was gathered by full-forward Mark Sherry and his roofed finish made it 2-5 to 1-6 at the break.
On the restart, an unanswered quartet of Flynn points left Kildare two up and dreaming ... but Costello's poacher's strike on the rebound, after Basquel hit an upright, was the start of their nightmare.
SCORERS - Dublin: C Costello 2-2 (0-1f), M McHugh 0-5 (0-1 pen), C Basquel 1-0, S Carthy, A Foley, E Lowndes 0-1 each. Kildare: N Flynn 0-11 (6f, 2 '45s'), M Sherry 1-0, N Kelly 0-1.
DUBLIN: L Molloy; D Byrne, E Murchan, E Mullan; E Lowndes, C Mullally, R McGowan; S Cunningham, S Carthy; N Scully, A Foley, G Burke; C Costello, C McHugh, C Basquel. Subs: E Fletcher for Mullan (inj 30+2), R Gaughan for Burke (38), A Byrne for Basquel (50), D Ó Cathmhaoil for Foley (53).
KILDARE: C Heeney; B Byrne, D Maguire, P Mescal; R Houlihan, D Hyland, D Duke; R Moore, P Connell; C Fenner, D Fitzpatrick, N Kelly; N Flynn, M Sherry, C Healy. Subs: L Healy for Byrne (27), C McMonagle for Moore (38), D Flaherty for C Healy (46), L Power for Connell (50), T Gibbons for Kelly (inj 57), J Costello for Houlihan (black card 60).
WIDES: Dublin 12 (8+4); Kildare 3 (2+1)
YELLOW: Dublin 1 (Foley 38); Kildare 1 (Fitzpatrick 6)
BLACK: Dublin 0; Kildare 1 (Houlihan 60)
REF: N Ward (Westmeath)
ATT: 2,000 (estimated)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Neil Flynn (Kildare)
leinster u-21 football final: dublin 3-10 kildare 1-12