Dublin Under-20s longest season comes down to final kick

by Stephen Findlater
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EirGrid All Ireland Under 20 Football Championship Final – GALWAY 1-11 v DUBLIN 0-13

Dublin’s Under-20s incredible fightback came up a point short to leave them heartbroken at the end of the longest season in Croke Park last Saturday.

First getting together over 12 months ago, the campaign should have ended in March but subsequently dovetailed with two lockdowns.

It added to the pain for manager Tom Gray as they almost reeled in a six-point gap to one with vehement last-gasp calls for a free in a promising position falling on deaf ears.

“Any game you lose by a point is heartbreaking, particularly when it’s a final in the year that we’ve had,” Gray said after the tie. “For such a long road to end the way that it did was very disappointing to put it mildly.

“You can only be very proud of the players and the work they put in throughout the whole year. They fell just short and we have to take that on the chin.”

“They have been a credit to their families, their clubs and the coaching staffs over the years. It’s been great to see and I have no doubt they will be using this as motivation factor to improve going forward and become even better players.

“It’s hard to look forward at the moment but there is 11 of that starting team eligible next year if and when we get back to competition.”

Dublin’s Brian O’Leary attempts to take in a high ball. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Tomo Culhane was the Galway star, recording 1-6 in the final while county senior Matthew Tierney also weighed in with 0-4.

He opened the scoring just seconds into the tie but Ciaran Archer – the 2019 player of the year at this grade – levelled quickly.

But the Tribesmen were edging the opening exchanges and edged 0-4 to 0-2 up. Mark Lavin and Brian O’Leary levelled it at 0-4 each at the first water break.

Galway, though, controlled the period either side of half-time to move 0-8 to 0-5 at the big break before Culhane struck the only goal in the 37th minute, making 1-9 to 0-6.

That looked to be a more than comfortable lead but Dublin were brilliant in their reply as Adam Fearon, Lavin and Lorcan O’Dell ran up consecutive scores. But Tierney provided a crucial riposte with the clock ticking into the final minute of normal time for a two-point gap.

Fearon’s good run and score cut it back to the minimum but Galway held on amid late drama.

“Galway were quite good at getting bodies back,” said Gray. “Probably our decision making in terms of that last pass, that wasn’t the best over the 60 minutes either, to be honest.

“We worked a lot of really good scores. It was just a little touch here or there that prevented us from getting in front.”

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