Farrell's Dublin take the Long' road
leinster u21fc semi-final
DUBLIN showed flashes of both their promise and their vulnerabilities last night in Navan before shaking off Longford in a 2-15 to 3-7 win, a victory that puts Dessie Farrell's team into the Eirgrid Leinster Under 21 final on April 2nd.
If you were Farrell today (and we'll work off the presumption that the Dublin manager is as deeply reflective and analytical as he seems) you wouldn't be quite sure how to feel ahead of a Leinster final with Kildare, who beat Meath in Portlaoise last night in the other provincial semi-final.
His team, it seems from the evidence of two games thus far, reside permanently in the extremities of their abilities.
When they're good, they're very, very good,
When they're bad, they look capable of unnecessarily losing to a team distinctly inferior to them.
Like their victory over Laois in the quarter-finals, Dublin faced a shock midway through the second half in Páirc Tailteann last night, trailed by a point and then simply pounded Longford in every area of the pitch in a closing gallop of huge industry.
The concession of three goals is a very obvious spot at which to begin a internal review for Farrell but equally, Dublin's use of the ball in the first half and in particular, their shooting, was well shy of their own standards.
Yet when they found their flow and when it was put up to them by a Longford team with a few sparkling footballers, they were awesome and direct.
Slick, fluid and efficient too.
When Longford went ahead in the 48th minute through wing-back Dessie Reynolds, momentum was theirs and theirs only.
And then Dublin - again propelled by the likes of Conor McHugh, Eric Lowndes and Niall Scully - just went into overdrive.
They scored six on the spin, included in which was a trio of scores from Scully, and sealed a game in thrilling style, albeit a game they had contrived to make a contest out of in the first place.
And as far as starts go, Longford's could quite accurately be filed under 'ideal.'
One minute and 13 seconds after the ball was thrown in, Larry Moran hit the Dublin net.
In between, he burned Ross McGowan, thus giving the occupants of Páirc Tailteann a preview of what was to come.
Indeed both Moran and Longford's other corner-forward Liam Connerton looked sprightly right from the off, inclined to take on their men as a first option and taking advantage of the space Dublin's man-to-man defensive approach opens up.
As it happened though, Dublin's first score of the match was goal too.
Killian O'Gara, a goal scorer against Laois in the previous round, repeated the trick last night on eight minutes.
Ryan Basquel fed the Templeogue/SS man and he finished from close range.
Dublin's problem - Moran and Connerton besides - was their own shooting.
In the first half alone, they kicked nine wide and one off the upright.
Worse though, were the four shots that dropped into Longford 'keeper Colm Farrell's hands and it took until the second half for Dublin to fully calibrate their shooting.
And Longford had the materials with which to take advantage.
Conor McHugh scored three points on the spin but a mistake from Dublin goalkeeper Lorcan Molloy let Longford in for a second goal on 13 minutes.
The St Anne's stopper overhit a handpass to Conor Mullally and Connerton raced in a smashed home a shot to Molloy's left.
Dublin always looked a better team but equally, they looked a team who might concede a goal at any minute and as such, no lead shy of six or seven was going to grant any great degree of comfort.
Eoin Murchin, the zippy Na Fianna wing-back, picked out Basquel with a visionary pass in the 22nd minute and he rounded the Longford goalkeeper and slipped a second Dublin goal.
O'Gara put Dublin two up before th ebreak but a boomer from Longford midfielder Andrew Dalton meant the minimum different between the teams going in at half-time.
And if Dublin wanted a calming start to the second-half, they didn't get it.
Connerton showed great hands to win a mucky ball around his ankles, turned and fire past Molloy to put Longford two up and inject a little hyperactivity to the Longford support, for whom their win over Dublin at this grade two years ago was still obviously fresh in the memory.
In McHugh though, Dublin not only have a forward of elite skill, they have a player who has grown into something of a leader for this team and last year's.
His calm ball use was in plentiful display last night and his inclination to fist points and calm everything down a jot helped his team through a rocky patch.
He scored six points last night; a free, two fisted effort, two right-footed and two off his left and had a couple of smart assists to boot.
Three of those came after Connerton's goal and when Andy Foley scored off an O'Gara knock down, Dublin were in plain sight of victory.
Longford pinched three points on the spin though to nose ahead and test the resolve of Dublin.
As it happened, they had plenty.
McHugh fisted (by our calculations, his fifth hand-passed point of the Leinster Under 21 Championship) score preceded a typically smart effort from Lowndes.
Dublin, sensing their opportunity, tested Longford in every way.
They pushed up on Colm Farrell's kick-outs and began to dominate in midfield and in McHugh, always had an outlet inside.
In Scully, they had a player who finally got reward on the scoreboard for previous graft and his three in succession put Dublin through.
SCORERS - Dublin: C McHugh 0-6 (1f), K O'Gara 1-2, C Basquel 1-1, N Scully 0-3, E Lowndes 0-2, A Foley 0-1.. Longford: L Connerton 2-1, L Moran 1-1 (0-1f), P Kiernan 0-2, D Reynolds, A Dalton, D McGivney (f) 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: L Molloy; S Clayton, D Byrne, R McGowan; E Lowndes, C Mullally, E Murchan; S Cunningham, S Carthy; G Burke, A Foley, N Scully; K O'Gara, C McHugh, C Basquel. Subs: R Gaughan for Burke (43), A Byrne for O'Gara (47), M Deegan for Basquel (59).
LONGFORD: C Farrell; R Sweeney, A Farrell, C Shields; L Sullivan, C Farrelly, D Reynolds; F Sheridan, A Dalton; R McInerney, S Kenny, R Connor; L Moran. P Kiernan, L Connerton. Subs: D McGivney for Sheridan (26), P Farrell for A Farrell (51), N Rabbitte for Kiernan (55).
WIDES - Dublin: 12 (9 + 3). Longford: 9 (2 + 7).
REF: J Hickey (Carlow)
ATTENDANCE: (1,500 Est.)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Conor McHugh (Dublin)
DUBLIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-15
LONGFORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-7