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Saturday 21 July 2018

Dublin's greater scoring power can prove decisive against Lilies

Leinster U20 FC Final Dublin v Kildare (Tullamore, Tonight, 7.30 TG4)

KEY MAN: Kildare’s Aaron Masterson. Pic: Sportsfile
KEY MAN: Kildare’s Aaron Masterson. Pic: Sportsfile

Dublin and Kildare will make history in O'Connor Park, Tullamore this evening when they contest the inaugural Eirgrid Leinster U20 Football Championship final.

It is fitting that the near neighbours should meet on such a noteworthy occasion given that they unquestionably represent the two best teams in the province and their emphasis on attacking football should lead to an encounter that fits its billing.

Both counties came through their respective groups comfortably enough with Dublin cruising through Group 1 following straightforward wins against Longford, Westmeath and Wexford.

The bar was raised last weekend as they were forced to travel to Navan for a difficult looking assignment against a talented Meath side but the Dubs seized control from the first minute as they romped to an impressive 4-16 to 2-10 victory.

While Kildare were edged out by Meath by 2-11 to 1-13 in their Group 2 match last month, they have generally performed very well and they looked in fine fettle when accounting for Carlow in their quarter-final by 4-19 to 0-8 before clinching their final berth with another facile 3-14 to 2-5 win over Offaly eight days ago.

WING MAN: Dublin wing-back Eoin O’Dea. Pic: Sportsfile
WING MAN: Dublin wing-back Eoin O’Dea. Pic: Sportsfile

The foundation for their victory last Friday lay in a majestic performance at midfield from Aaron Masterson and his well-being this evening is vital if Kildare are to yield telling contributions on the scoreboard from their twin threat of Brian McLoughlin and senior panellist Jimmy Hyland.

Influence

McLoughlin grabbed the scoring honours against Offaly with a 2-2 salvo but Hyland is the attacker that Dublin will look to suffocate given his massive influence to date.

Dublin possess a glut of match-winners of their own and finding the right balance in terms of their attacking personnel and set-up is a key challenge for manager Tom Gray. From Dan O'Brien's wonderful display (1-9, all from play) in Dublin's opening match against Longford, the Dublin forward unit have almost taken it in turns to provide the necessary scores and leadership required and Ross McGarry from Ballyboden St Enda's has made a massive impact since being introduced for his first start in Dublin's final group match against Wexford.

The competition for places means among the forward division will, manager Gray hopes, see them deliver a big performance in tonight's provincial decider.

Tom Keane has highlighted the fact as he has amassed nine points from play in an hour and a quarter of football having being dropped from the starting 15 for the Wexford match while the likes of James Doran and James Madden possess all the attributes required to succeed at this level and beyond.

Dublin's captain Sean Bugler is another player that has been central in Dublin's run to the final and the St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh player highlighted his importance to the team, and indeed his versatility, when seamlessly slotting into midfield for Dublin's win over Meath a week ago.

Limiting

His pace and intelligent use of possession were vital in curbing what was a talented Meath pairing and he will be conscious of limiting the influence of Masterson in what could be one of the pivotal individual battles this evening.

Dublin's defence has been less heralded but David O'Hanlon remains a more than capable netminder and Dublin will generally look to their wing-backs Kieran Kennedy and Eoin O'Dea for momentum going forward.

Kildare won the corresponding minor championship two years ago (defeating Laois 1-18 to 0-10 in the 2016 Leinster MFC final) and they certainly won't suffer from any inferiority complex this evening.

However, Dublin have looked sharp up front and if they can gain parity around the middle third, they should have enough scoring power to get the job done in possibly a high-scoring shootout.

 

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