Cadburys GAA Football All Ireland Under 21 Championship Semi-Final – Dublin 3-11 Cork 0-14

Classy Dublin pass stern Cork test

Dublin 3-11 Cork 0-14

By Fintan O’Toole for the Irish Examiner newspaper

They did not replicate the crushing defeats they inflicted on opponents in the provincial arena, but there was still plenty of merit to and plenty to admire in Dublin’s victory in Saturday’s Cadbury’s All-Ireland U21FC semi-final in Portlaoise. For the second time in three years Jim Gavin steered a Dublin U21 side into an All-Ireland final and in the process experienced redemption after losing to Cork at this stage three years ago. Dublin entered the encounter on the back of a dazzling Leinster campaign which was defined by the star of Ciarán Kilkenny rising inexorably.

The Castleknock youngster was predictably under the spotlight here, yet Cork managed to stifle his influence, with Alan Cronin shadowing him throughout, while the supply of possession into him was cut out frequently. Yet other Dublin players stepped up to the plate. Full-forward Philip Ryan was the main man as he weighed in with a 2-3 haul, Gary Sweeney scythed through the Cork defence regularly during the opening period while Paul Hudson picked off a couple of lovely points in the second-half. “I wasn’t surprised that the other guys stepped up,” remarked Gavin afterwards. “I see them in training. You just knew it was coming. Other games, Ciarán was playing well so the guys just gave him the ball and it’s great to see them step up today. “Certainly they were the best team we played. It’s no surprise in an All-Ireland semi-final against a very physical Cork side. There are lots of really good footballers in their team and they play a really good brand of football. So we knew and the players knew we would have to up it to another level. We struggled in some parts of the game but I thought the guys showed great resolve.”

The scoring statistics provide food for thought for Cork when they reflect on this defeat. They matched Dublin in registering 14 scores over the hour but a failure to raise a green flag proved detrimental to their hopes of success. Brian Hurley smashed a shot against the crossbar in the 11th minute but that was the closest Cork came to working the ball past Dublin goalkeeper John Brian Carthy. In the second-half Cork needed a goal to ignite their revival yet could not unlock the Dublin defence. Cork notched four points from play in the opening 11 minutes but the fact that they managed two points from play thereafter demonstrated how Dublin came to terms with the Rebels threat.

Cork played bright and inventive football in the first-half yet the end product did not reflect that. Hurley always looked a threat in attack, John O’Rourke looked menacing at half-forward and Ruairi Deane worked furiously hard all through at midfield. Cork were four points adrift at the interval, 2-5 to 0-7, but misplaced passes and wayward shots cost them the chance to trim that gap further. After Philip Ryan’s brace of first-half goals had placed Dublin in a healthy position, they got a further boost after the break when wing-back Jack McCaffrey rampaged forward before assuredly rolling a shot to the net. That placed Dublin into a 3-5 to 0-7 advantage and despite Cork battling admirably to get back into contention, Gavin’s side were always able to keep them at an arm’s length.

Cork looked to shake things up by bringing Dan McEoin, who had made a key scoring contribution in the Munster final, off the bench and shifting Damien Cahalane out to midfield. However Dublin packed their defence to crowd out Cork attackers in possession and with Emmet Ó Conghaile, Paul Maguire and Hudson having strong last quarters, they were able to look forward to the prospect of an All-Ireland final. Gavin is hoping the experience of the U21 final two years ago and last September’s minor decider will stand to the Dublin players that were involved. “You would hope that we would have that experience of it. It is just a game of football with all the razzmatazz involved with it. But you hope that would count for something. But it’s a different competition and different group of players. I don’t think from observing close up that these guys look back. We always tell them to look forward.”

Scorers for Dublin: P Ryan 2-3 (1-0 pen, 0-1 ‘45); J McCaffrey 1-0; E Ó Conghaile, P Hudson 0-2 each; D Byrne, G Sweeney, C Kilkenny, P Maguire 0-1 each.

Scorers for Cork: B Hurley 0-5 (0-4f); L Connolly (0-1 ‘45), K Hallissey (0-2f), J O’Rourke 0-2 each; D Óg Hodnett, M Sugrue, D McEoin (0-1f) 0-1 each

Subs for Dublin: P Maguire for Byrne (38); G Seaver for Schutte (45); P O’Higgins for Reddin (46); H Dawson for Hudson (55); E Keogh for Sweeney (57)

Subs for Cork: D McEoin for Hallissey (half-time); C O’Sullivan for Wall (40); B O’Driscoll for Healy (51); A Cadogan for Sugrue (55).

Referee: M Higgins (Fermanagh).