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Friday 19 January 2018

Dublin minors win final spot

Kilkenny and Costello drive Blues to success over Déise

Dublin withstood a brave second-half rally from Waterford to eventually prevail by nine points in an absorbing All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship semi-final at Croke Park yesterday.

In doing so, the Dubs claimed their first final appearance since 1983 and if they can replicate their dominant first-half performance, then they will have every opportunity of claiming their first national title at this level since 1965 when they face Galway on the first Sunday in September.

The catalyst for Dublin's win was a rampaging display from centre-forward Ciarán Kilkenny with the dual player's power and pace instrumental in his side's destruction of a ragged Waterford rearguard in the opening half, in addition to accruing 1-5 over the hour.

However, the scoring plaudits were garnered on Kilkenny's dual colleague Cormac Costello, with the Whitehall Colmcille player accounting for 4-2 of Dublin's tally in what was a masterclass in poaching.

After Jamie Desmond had opened Dublin's account with a third-minute '65', Kilkenny raced onto Conor McHugh's pass a minute later to weave his way towards goal and wrong-foot Paddy Cooke with a smart finish to the net.

Waterford bounced back well from that setback however and were on level terms by the 10th minute following a brace of points by Gavin O'Brien in addition to other scores from Peter O'Keeffe and Cathal Curran.

However, Dublin dominated the remainder of the half and after Kilkenny had added an 11th-minute free, Costello bagged his first goal within a minute, hammering home from close range after a wonderful catch and pass by Emmet Ó Conghaile.

Points followed from Glenn Whelan, Costello, Paul Winters, Kilkenny and Ó Conghaile prior to Kilkenny bursting through once again and although Ó Conghaile's shot was well saved by Cooke, Winters was on hand to tap home from six metres.

A brace of Donie Breathnach points stemmed the tide briefly but Dublin were rampant at this stage and after points by Ó Conghaile, Colm Cronin and a sublime effort by Matthew McCaffrey, Costello nipped in for Dublin's fourth goal entering injury-time and he timed his run to perfection to flick Kilkenny's delivery home beyond Cooke.

Leading 4-12 to 0-7 at the interval, Dublin looked to build on their advantage upon the restart and after Winters and Jamie Barron had traded points, Costello highlighted his poaching instincts in the 35th minute when tapping into an empty net after Cronin's shot rebounded off the upright.

Aodhán Clabby stretched that lead to 21 points but the Déise refused to accept their fate and three successive points preceded their opening goal through substitute Cormac Heffernan.

That goal looked of mere nuisance value to Dublin as midway through the half, Costello danced through the Waterford defence to rocket an unstoppable shot beyond Cooke to seemingly finish the game as a contest. However, three goals in seven minutes through Adam O'Sullivan, O'Brien and Stephen Bennett breathed life into the Déise challenge.

But Dublin, and Kilkenny in particular, raised their game in the final minutes with the Castleknock player tagging on two points in addition to scores from Clabby and substitute Brian McCarthy before a Stephen O'Neill goal with the last puck of the game ended a remarkable contest at headquarters.

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