herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

strong finish is a good sign for minors

Manager Christie impressed with character of young Dublin panel

It may not have been pretty but Dublin's minor footballers got their Leinster Minor Football Championship campaign off to a winning start when overcoming Offaly by 2-11 to 1-9 in Parnell Park last Saturday.

The final scoreline may have flattered the defending champions but there was encouragement to be derived from the manner in which they finished strongly to eventually get the better of a stubborn Offaly side.

Aaron Elliott's second goal of the match five minutes from time proved the decisive score which offered a degree of relief for Dublin manager Paddy Christie.

"We are delighted to have come through that and although we knew there was a 'back-door' for both sides, it was important for us from a momentum perspective that we achieved the win," said Christie.

"The nature of the win was very important too. It wasn't very pretty to be honest with you but we showed guts and a fair bit of composure at the end," said the Ballymun Kickhams clubman.

That the sides were level at 1-8 apiece with just seven minutes remaining highlighted both Dublin's difficulties and the fierce challenge that Offaly presented, especially given they showed admirable resolve to reverse a four point deficit from earlier in the half.

momentum

With momentum very much in Offaly's direction, Dublin managed to regain their composure to finish in the ascendancy through Elliot's goal and late points from Dillon Keating and Kevin Callaghan.

It was fitting that that aforementioned duo should kicked the insurance scores, given their influence in the second-half with Christie quick to acknowledge their role in Dublin's victory.

"Some of the stuff the lads tried in attack didn't really come off on occasions but we created and scored two excellent goals against what I thought was an excellent Offaly full-back line," he said.

"The likes of Kevin Callaghan and Dillon Keating really stood up to the plate after the break and that was the type of leadership that any management team would be happy with," said Christie.

Of course, given the relative inexperience of Christie's panel, it was perhaps understandable that his side should show signs of first-day nerves in what was a first championship outing for the bulk of his panel.

The positive experiences of winning the Leinster Minor Football League may have helped in that regard but championship fare brings an added degree of anticipation and with that, pressure.

"No matter what you do and talk to players beforehand, it is very difficult to prepare lads for their first championship match at this level," said Christie.

"There is a different feel to the championship compared to the league or challenge games and a lot of players are playing in front of a decent crowd for the first time.

"Of course, it should have affected Offaly too but they didn't really show that in the first-half.

"You have to accept that this can happen to any young lad and accept that this is par for the course and hopefully you work your way through it," he added.

That Dublin worked through it despite some injuries that hampered both their preparations and tactics during the game was even more commendable with James Holland having to withdraw after the warm-up while Barra McGarry only lasted seven minutes before suffering a re-occurrence of a hamstring injury.

His replacement, Shane Howard, also needed to be replaced before half-time with an ankle complaint after kicking two fine scores, problems that Dublin managed to iron out by the end of the game.

"Almost anything that could go wrong did go wrong for us in some ways," offered Christie.

"Losing James Holland in the warm-up was very unfortunate, especially for him as he'd worked so hard to earn his place in the starting line-up.

"We also lost Barra McGarry and Shane Howard as well during the game so that knocked the stuffing out of us a bit but we showed the right levels of composure and yet, we survived, which reflects well on the character of the team," he said.

That character was required in decent measures and was probably the facet of Dublin's display that pleased Christie the most, given the precarious position that Dublin found themsleves in.

toppling

Very few pundits gave Offaly a genuine chance of toppling the champions but Christie was well aware of the threat they presented, a threat that manifested itself on Saturday.

"We were very impressed with Offaly. We had no doubt coming in here beforehand that they would present a huge challenge for us," he said.

"The game was dictated a bit by the breeze. It didn't appear that strong in the stands but it definitely had an effect on our shooting in the first-half.

"We didn't panic when they went three points clear in the second-half as we knew that the breeze was at our backs.

"We had the confidence to feel that the chances would eventually come our way if we stuck at it and that's what transpired in the end.

"The goals were hugely important, of course, and naturally we were disappointed to concede a goal when we did because we should have been looking to close out the game at that stage.

"We'll be satisfied with a fair bit of what we saw but we certainly wouldn't be getting carried away with our performance because there were a lot of things that we can improve on," he concluded.

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