Dublin produced a stirring second-half comeback as they edged Galway by two points in their thrilling O’Neill’s.com Leinster Under 20 Hurling Championship opener in Birr on Saturday afternoon.
The Dubs trailed by nine points at one stage as their opponents threatened to run riot in the first-half but some crucial scores into the breeze approaching the break helped whittle their arrears to a more manageable six points by the break.
With the elements in their favour in the second-half, Dublin slowly but surely narrowed the gap further and with the sides deadlocked entering the closing stages, they finished on the front foot through points from Ollie Gaffney and influential substitute Jamie Conroy.
Conroy’s impact was instant as he pounced for a goal within four minutes of his introduction and three further points from play by the Cuala attacker went a long way to deciding the outcome in his team’s favour.
Such a positive conclusion seemed unlikely in the early stages as Galway assumed complete control of matters, boosted as they were by a fortuitous goal from Liam Leen in the second minute.
James O’Brien opened Dublin’s account in the 7th minute but Galway stuck three points in quick succession to lead by 1-5 to 0-1 towards the end of the first quarter.
An excellent point from Conal Ó Riain briefly stalled their momentum but Galway added another trio of unanswered points to push nine points clear with Ó Riain adding his second score of the half by way of riposte in the 20th minute.
Brendan Kenny and O’Brien tagged on points at the half evolved and three scores without reply from Diarmuid Ó Dúlaing (2) and Ciaran Donovan allowed the Dubs to enter the break with a greater degree of confidence.
Trailing by 1-11 to 0-8, Dublin took little time in addressing their deficit as Neil Clerkin and Ó Dúlaing added points and they managed to remain in touch as O’Brien and Ó Dúlaing ensured Galway could not pull away on the scoreboard.
With Liam Collins adding a couple of frees for Galway, there were still five points separating the teams before Conroy added momentum to Dublin’s comeback with a well-taken goal in the 42nd minute.
Ó Dúlaing converted another free to leave the bare minimum between the teams by the start of the final quarter and the sides were deadlocked by the 56th minute as Conroy popped over two points while O’Brien added his fourth of the afternoon.
The Dubs edged ahead for the first time through Ó Dúlaing a minute later and while Galway levelled matters soon after, Dublin finished strongly through Gaffeny and Conroy to complete a promising start to their campaign.
Their attention will now turn to a Wexford side that overcame Kilkenny on Saturday as the two teams meet in Parnell Park next Saturday afternoon (2.00).
Shamey O’Hagan of Wexford in action against James O’Brien of Dublin during last year’s Leinster U20 Championship Semi-Final match between Wexford and Dublin at Chadwicks Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
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