Dubs' tactical masterclass sinks Donegal
Farrell: They looked like a strong team so we kept an eye on them
These All-Ireland Under 21 semi-finals have thrown a couple of difficult afternoons at Dessie Farrell in the past two seasons. Last Saturday, on that rare occasion these days when a Dublin team were outsiders, he could afford to bask afterwards in a job clinically done.
Donegal beaten by seven points in Breffni Park.
Textbook stuff. A tactical masterclass, executed to the letter by a tightly-drilled team.
A lesson in organisation, patience and attitude.
"We were sort of setting up for them a little bit, even though they were coming from a distance," Farrell said afterwards by way of explanation for how his team were so tuned in to every single movement made by a Donegal team clearly running low on energy after a third match in eight days.
"They hadn't made it to the semi-final (by the time Dublin won Leinster) but they looked the strongest team, so we kept a close eye on them."
Donegal arrived to Cavan on Saturday with a lofty and fully justified billing.
They had, in their previous two games in Ulster, beaten Tyrone and Derry by a combined total of 19 points.
They also packed a half dozen or so players who not only survived in the exalted environs of Division 1 football this spring but thrived in Rory Gallagher's reconstituted senior team.
When the corresponding teams met at minor level, Donegal denied Dublin a place in that 2014 All-Ireland final.
"You just need to keep a solid defensive structure against them because they'll pop you open," Farrell elaborated.
"They have really strong runners and are very organised at the back.
"Then, when they see the opportunity, they go for the jugular.
"Just after the start of the second half, they looked threatening and menacing. But we rode those two periods out and came with a burst ourselves."
Not before encountering some unexpected strife.
After just four minutes, Dublin's only real megastar, Con O'Callaghan, was black-carded for uprooting Donegal defender, Conor Morrisson, who had loitered too close for the Cuala man's liking whilst prone.
"I can't repeat what I was thinking, to tell you the truth," Farrell admitted. "Yeah, I was disappointed. He'll be disappointed himself to get involved.
"But I think there was two players involved in it. How Con was singled out, I thought it was harsh."
Naturally, they missed his ball-winning and direct running but this team is about more than any individu l.
Aaron Byrne kept at least three Donegal defenders occupied every time he found possession with his sharp turns.
Glenn O'Reilly - who wore more numbers on the day than the National Lottery mascot - scored two early points and punched neat holes for others to run into.
Cian Murphy thrived at wing-back, kicked two himself and set up Seán McMahon's goal.
While Brian Howard looks to have the stuff of a soon-to-be senior player.
Leading 0-5 to 0-3 at he break, Byrne kicked three of a four-point run after Donegal pared the deficit back to one.
Late on, with Dublin's tackling so clincial and the team so well-organised, it was inevitable that Donegal's schedule would catch up.
"They'd want to be superhuman for that not to have an impact," agreed Farrell who must plan for an All-Ireland final now against a relatively unknown Galway team with a full round of club Championship scheduled between Thursday and Saturday of this week.
"But look, we can only do what we can do. And we're just happy to be in an All-Ireland final."