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Costello's contribution helps Blues blast past Meath to retain crown

DUBLIN retained their Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship title following a comprehensive 12-point win (3-17 to 1-11) over a disappointing Meath at Croke Park yesterday afternoon.

The outcome was essentially decided within the opening 18 minutes as the Dubs completely overwhelmed their opponents in leading by 1-8 to 0-2.

But for some indecision and over-elaboration, the provincial champions could have prevailed by an even greater margin.

Central to their victory was the display of dual player Cormac Costello, with the Whitehall Colmcille player accounting for 3-4 of his side's tally in accepting what was his fourth winning provincial medal over the past two seasons (two hurling, two football).

Costello was well supported throughout by a dominant midfield sector in which both Shane Carthy and Stephen Cunningham completely outplayed their opposite numbers, providing an excellent attacking platform for their side.

The Dubs served early notice of their intent through two early scores from the powerful Gavin Burke and Costello and although Patrick Kennelly replied, their defence was beginning to creak under the pace and support play of a by now rampant Dublin team.

Costello and the tireless Niall Walsh added to Dublin's lead before Jack Hannigan completed a routine penalty save from Niall Scully in the 14th minute after the same player was impeded by Ruairí Ó Coileáin.

That save failed to galvanise Meath, however, with Robbie Gaughan, Conor McHugh and Burke all taking advantage of the generous amounts of space afforded to them to tag on comfortable scores.

The goal that had eluded Dublin up to that point arrived in fairly fortuitous circumstances as a Costello point attempt deceived Hannigan as it landed into the top right-hand corner of the net.

Dublin took their foot off the gas sufficiently to allow Meath a couple of half-chances approaching the interval with a brace of frees from Fiachra Ward and a point by Barry Dardis reducing their arrears to 1-10 to 0-5 by half-time.

Any hopes of a Royal comeback were quickly dispelled upon the restart as Costello raced clear in the 34th minute to score a goal remarkably similar to his effort in the semi-final victory over Kildare, pivoting away to leave Hannigan helpless from close range.

A third goal arrived within five minutes as McHugh looked to have run down a cul-de-sac before he found Costello, who took his time in rounding Hannigan before hammering to the empty net.

Despite trailing by 14 points, Meath responded well in adversity through Cillian O'Sullivan's excellent goal at the end of the third quarter, while Ward tagged on a couple of points to maintain a degree of momentum.

If wasn't enough to alter the pattern of the game and Dublin's 31st provincial title was confirmed through a succession of points by Shane Cunningham, Burke, Niall Scully and McHugh.

Dublin face Monaghan while Meath face Tyrone in their All-Ireland quarter-finals.