Minor panic but Blues squeeze out Carlow
Dublin advanced to the semi-finals of the ESB Leinster Minor Hurling Championship after an unconvincing 0-22 to 2-14 victory over a battling Carlow at Dr Cullen Park on Saturday afternoon.
With the sides deadlocked entering injury time and the hosts looking more likely to prevail, Dean Flood produced a moment of brilliance in pointing from the left-hand touchline and Aodhán Clabby's insurance score confirmed a last-four date with Wexford, provisionally scheduled for June 26 in Parnell Park.
There will be much to work on in the intervening six weeks, most noticeably another poor first-half where Dublin found themselves seven points behind inside the opening six minutes, and the lack of a goalscoring threat will also need to addressed.
That the Dubs ultimately prevailed was largely down to a dominant period early in the second-half, where they registered eight unanswered points in 10 minutes with captain Danny Sutcliffe leading by example with two glorious scores, while John Hetherton used his size and strength to great effect on the edge of the square.
The Slaneysiders, playing with a strong breeze in the first-half, took advantage of a sloppy Dublin rearguard from the throw-in, and after Peter Shaw had opened the scoring within 30 seconds Alan McDonald seized on miscommunication between Gareth Cronan and Eamonn Dillon to flick to the net a minute later.
Dillon then redeemed himself denying McDonald superbly, but the hosts continued to hold the upper hand and pushed further ahead through three successive John Doyle frees.
A Cillian Moffat free helped calm Dub nerves and they began using their aerial ability to greater effect with wing-forwards Glenn Whelan and Clabby more prominent. Three scores from Flood, one from play, had Dublin within a goal by the 12th minute.
Dublin reduced their deficit to the bare minimum thanks to tidy points from Hetherton and the increasingly influential Sutcliffe, but points from Doyle and the lively Shaw ensured Carlow entered the interval 1-8 to 0-8 to the good.
Substitute Daryl Roberts increased their advantage to four points with an excellent point immediately from the restart but, from that point on, the Dubs began showing a greater intensity, especially around the middle third.
A Naoise Maguire point in the 32nd minute instigated Dublin's purple patch as they reeled off eight points in quick succession, with Hetherton also denied a deserved goal by a superb Brian Treacy save in the 35th minute.
Whether through complacency or not, Dublin took their foot off the gas and they were to regret their lethargy as Roberts combined with McDonald in the 45th minute for the latter to field above Cronan, and his turn and finish to the net breathed new life into a heretofore flagging Carlow challenge.
Despite isolated points from Sutcliffe, Flood and Dennis Forde, the momentum was all Carlow's at this stage and they deservedly took the lead after points from Ross Smithers, Roberts and a lovely Shaw effort in the 59th minute as Dublin conceded territory and possession all too easily.
However, the visitors managed to regain their composure just in time to ensure progression at the death.
Scorers - Dublin: D Flood (5f) 0-8, D Sutcliffe 0-5, J Hetherton (1f) 0-3, N Maguire 0-2, C Moffat (f), G Whelan, D Forde, A Clabby 0-1 each. Carlow: A McDonald 2-0, J Doyle (3f) 0-5, P Shaw 0-4, D Roberts 0-2, D Dalton, P Coady (f), R Smithers 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: E Dillon; C Murphy, G Cronan, S McClelland; C Crummey, C Moffat, B Quinn; N Maguire, E McKenna; G Whelan, D Sutcliffe, A Clabby; D Forde, J Hetherton, D Flood. Subs: E Small for Cronan (46), F Heavey for McKenna (48).
CARLOW: B Treacy; L Kinsella, S Murphy, D Galway; S Murphy, S Jordan, G Bennett; J Doyle, J Corcoran; D Corcoran, D Dalton, R Smithers; P Coady, A McDonald, P Shaw. Subs: D Roberts for D Corcoran (27), P Ahern for Bennett and M Doyle for J Doyle (40).
REF: Alan Lagrue (Kildare).
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Danny Sutcliffe (Dublin).