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fianna the finest

Na Fianna's delivered a performance of the highest quality when comprehensively defeating Kilmacud Crokes by 1-26 to 0-14 in their Dublin Minor 'A' Hurling Championship Final at a sun-kissed O'Toole Park last Sunday morning.

Having qualified somewhat unconvincingly for the decider, Na Fianna reserved their most compelling display of the year for the final with Crokes largely playing second-fiddle for most of the hour.

In hindsight, the relative ease at which they overcame Ballyboden St Enda's in the semi-final a fortnight ago did them little good while in contrast, Na Fianna surely benefited from the massive test that St Vincent's provided in their last four tie.

The winners served early notice of their intentions with Matthew Oliver converting a free in the opening minute and an excellent score by Eoghan McHugh confirmed Na Fianna's rude health.

However, Cathal Keane's point in the third minute helped settle his side prior to Seán Ryan, who proved a handful throughout, added a delightful score to restore his side's two-point advantage.

The quality of the striking was reflected in a glut of scores throughout the half with Oliver adding a quick-fire brace while Crokes were largely dependent on the long-distance free-taking of Tom Fox, with the Dublin minor panellist landing three points against the breeze for Kilmacud in the first half.

Despite his contribution, Kilmacud were struggling in attack with the Na Fianna half-back line, led superbly by wing-back Paul O'Dea, dominating their direct opponents.

Their control ensured a dominance in terms of possession and with the breeze at their backs, the Glasnevin lads added to their lead through points by Oliver, McHugh, Jonathan Treacy and Shane Barrett with Gavin King highlighting the talent inherent in the panel with a glorious point from a sideline ball in the 16th minute.

Hope

Kilmacud offered a degree of hope to their large following successive scores from play by Stephen O'Dwyer and Alex Considine but these points proved isolated in terms of the general play as Na Fianna finished the half in the ascendancy through another superb point from play by McHugh, ensuring a 0-13 to 0-6 interval lead for Declan Feeney's men.

A wonderful point from Fox within a minute of the restart hinted at a possible Kilmacud resurgence but after Donal Burke and Michael Crowley had traded scores, Na Fianna effectively settled the contest with a string of five unanswered points that showcased their attacking vibrancy.

Ryan was responsible for the first two using his aerial prowess, while Oliver struck three points from play in quick succession as the Kilmacud defence became increasingly ragged.

Despite facing an insurmountable deficit, Crokes continued to place pressure on the Na Fianna defence but the goal required to kick-start their revival failed to materialise and they had to content themselves with three points on the bounce by O'Dwyer, Fox and Fiachra O'Connor.

This period at the end of the third quarter proved Kilmacud's strongest of the hour and although Ryan replied with a fine solo score at the opposite end, Crokes added further scores through substitute Sean Keating and Fergal Whitely to leave seven points between the sides by the 48th minute.

However, their fledgling comeback was stalled with McHugh adding an excellent score from Burke's visionary pass soon after and with eight minutes remaining, Ryan eluded the clutches of Daragh Butler before planting an efficient finish beyond Tadhg Murphy for the game's solitary goal.

It proved a procession from that juncture with Na Fianna adding to their already imposing tally to complete a sublime all-round display by the worthy champions.

Scorers - Na Fianna: M Oliver 0-10 (5f); S Ryan 1-4; E McHugh 0-6; G King 0-2 (0-2 sideline); J Treacy (f), C Currie, S Barrett, D Burke 0-1 each. Kilmacud Crokes: T Fox 0-5 (4f); M Crowley (1f), S O'Dwyer 0-2 each; C Keane, F Whitley, A Considine, F O'Connor, S Keating 0-1 each.

Na Fianna: J Treacy; K McDonnell, A Fitzgerald, C Doran; P Buggy, H Fenlon, P O'Dea; D Burke, G King; M Oliver, E McHugh, P Feeney; S Ryan, S Barrett, C Currie. Subs: E Murchan for Currie (55), I Jesson for Feeney (57), S Fitzgerald for Burke (59), L Fenlon for Oliver (60+1).

Kilmacud Crokes: T Murphy; E Sheehy, D Butler, C O'Shea; P Herlihy, E Allan, T Fox; M McCallion, C Keane; D Coakley, A Considine, F Whitley; S O'Dwyer, M Crowley, F O'Connor. Subs: S Keating for Coakley (42), M O'Rourke for Herlihy (47), B Sultan for Keane (52), E Keane for Sheehy (58).

Mentors - Na Fianna: Declan Feeney, Billy Fenlon, Paddy Oliver. Kilmacud Crokes: Kevin Coakley, Pat Halpin, Colm Maher, Tiernan Murray.

Referee: Declan Moloney (St Brigid's).

Wides - Na Fianna: 4 (3+1). Kilmacud Crokes: 7 (4+3).

Conditions: Glorious sunshine.

Player of the Game: Seán Ryan (Na Fianna).


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