herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

double vision for sky blues

Leinster u21 FC final

Dublin's recent provincial dominance at under-age level has seen football supporters in the capital almost take final appearances for granted and there is a sense of inevitability attached to the county's meeting with near neighbours Kildare in their EirGrid Leinster U21 Football Championship Final at Pairc Tailteann, Navan this Thursday evening (7.30).

The Dubs have won four out of the last six Leinster Championships with All-Ireland titles following on three occasions from their

provincial success.

However, such victories have been the exception rather than the norm over the course of the championship and a win in two nights' time is far from granted given the talented opposition that stand in Dublin's way.

Kildare have made light work out of both Offaly and Meath en route to the final and Dublin manager Dessie Farrell is keen to acknowledge the challenge that the Lilywhites will present on Thursday.

"Kildare have always played a great brand of football with the emphasis on attack.

"They have looked very sharp in their two games so far and both sets of players would be very familiar with each other, which adds to the occasion on Thursday.

"They are a very good side with a lot of talented footballers. They have been putting up some big scores in the championship to date as have we.

"Both sides like to put the emphasis on attack and that should make for a very entertaining spectacle for the neutral," added Farrell.

Naturally, Dublin will need to keep a diligent eye on the likes of Neil Flynn and Niall Kelly who have shared 2-16 to date.

Despite the presence of talented personnel within their ranks, Dublin have been unusually loose in defence with five goals conceded over two hours of football, a statistic that would otherwise have been the death knell for other less adventurous teams.

However, that Dublin have managed to progress despite this obvious defensive concern reflects well on their collective scoring potential with Cormac Costello's cameo for the seniors last Saturday night a positive in Dublin's favour, given how central he was in Dublin's All-Ireland winning campaign twelve months ago.

Costello's well-being is even more crucial for Dublin given the ankle injury suffered by Killian O'Gara for his club Templeogue Synge Street last Sunday week.

O'Gara has led the line superbly for Dublin in their wins over Laois and Longford and for Farrell, the absence of O'Gara is especially disappointing.

"It is hugely disappointing that Killian suffered this injury and that his campaign with us is over.

"He has come from nowhere really to play such an integral role for us this year and although he will be gutted to be missing out on Thursday and hopefully beyond that, he can feel justifiably proud of what he has contributed this year and hopefully he can bounce back from this setback and progress further in the coming years," said the Na Fianna clubman.

ABSENCE

That Dublin have enjoyed such recent success is another positive to off-set O'Gara's absence with many of Farrell's panel having tasted glory last year in addition to claiming the corresponding All-Ireland Minor tile back in 2012.

Those experiences should stand the Dubs in good stead in Navan but Farrell is unsure as to what benefit his side should derive from having tasted recent success at both provincial and national level.

"I think Thursday's match, like all finals, should be looked at in isolation for the most part.

"Of course, experience is important and we are lucky enough to have players who have enjoyed championship wins over the past few years.

"Having said that, Kildare have players with plenty of experience too and I really wouldn't read too much into that factor ahead of Thursday.

"Sometimes, negative outcomes can be a huge motivation factor for teams and can drive them over the line when things are tight so I don't think it would be correct to assume that what we have won previously will have any bearing on the result in two days time," added the 1995 All-Ireland SFC winner.

Whatever the outcome on Thursday, Farrell anticipates a free-flowing and attacking encounter between two teams that like to place an emphasis on attacking play.

"Having quality players available in both panels allows teams to play in an attacking style and it should be similar to our previous games this year in which they have been very open spectacles.

"Hopefully, we get the right result on the night," concluded Farrell.

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