Sunday 23 October 2016

Inside duo can tip the Blue scales


(O'Connor Park Tullamore, Today 4.0, live TG4)

JIM GAVIN was in the Páirc Tailteann stand for Dublin's Leinster final victory over Kildare, offering him a bird's eye view of what has been a recurring theme with this Dublin U21 team.

Dessie Farrell's 2015 vintage, including half of last year's All-Ireland-winning team, may offer rivals the glimpse of a chance ... but just when you start to doubt, they'll steady the ship and sail for home.

It has happened in all three provincial outings, when they trailed at different second half junctures. Each time, though, they survived and ultimately prospered, beating Laois by 11 points, Longford by five and Kildare by four.

"There's a lot of experience in that team from their minor days to under-21; a lot of them have played senior football as well and Sigerson," Gavin points out.


"And that has served them well in those tight corners, when their decision-making has been excellent. They've kept calm and composed and figured it out, which is a great trait."

The irony is that they now face an unheralded county - in historic terms - yet one that is likely to test those traits more severely than any of the above trio.

This Tipperary U21 team has pedigree - All-Ireland-winning pedigree. Five of their starting team - goalkeeper Evan Comerford, wing-back Bill Maher, midfield duo Steven O'Brien and Colin O'Riordan, and centre-forward Ian Fahey - were on the Tipp team that ambushed Farrell's hotly touted Dub cubs in the 2011 minor final. A sixth, Jason Lonergan, came off the bench four years ago.

Moreover, based on the most recent evidence, they don't want to be recalled in future conversations that begin with: "Whatever happened all those great young Tipp minors?"

Nine days ago, in a Munster final thriller, they toppled five-in-a-row chasing Cork more impressively than the 1-15 to 3-8 margin might suggest.

Fahey was man of the match, nutmegging the Cork 'keeper for their goal. All Star nominee O'Riordan, just back from a recent head injury but brilliantly fulfilling his Captain Fantastic brief, "ran himself into the ground - he was awesome," according to his manager, Tommy Toomey.

Tipperary are particularly strong around the middle-third, where O'Brien and O'Riordan, complemented by Fahey and Liam Casey, carry a significant ball-winning threat.

Still, if they have big-game experience, Dublin have even more. And, on the proviso that Shane Carthy, Andrew Foley, Stephen Cunningham et al can get their hands on enough ball, then the deadly duo of Cormac Costello and Conor McHugh (pictured above with Eric Lowndes) should have enough scores in their locker ... after the obligatory fright, of course.

ODDS: Dublin 2/5 Draw 15/2 Tipp 5/2


EirGrid u21 fc semi-finals

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