Great escape against the Banner gives minors a final reality check
Cian Boland in action against Clare in Croke Park. Picture: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile
BATTLING qualities will only get the Dublin minor hurlers so far and despite the exciting finale in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship semi-final against Clare, it was a far from complete display by the Dubs.
Expectations have been dampened after a less-than-convincing performance against the Banner, which may not count against Dublin.
They entered last year’s final on the back of an emphatic victory over Waterford only to fail to replicate that vibrancy as they succumbed meekly to Galway.
Dublin manager Shay Boland remains bullish that lessons can be learned from the experiences of 2011.
“No matter what happens next week between Tipperary and Galway, we will be underdogs. That is where we’d rather be.
“Last year we came in here after beating Waterford after a big result and look where it got us. We’re here (in the final) and neither of the other two teams are there yet, so we can go away and work on what we need to work on.
“Last year was a different type of team. We were a lot taller and a lot more physical and we lost eight players that were six foot or over so we have a different type of team now.
“I said all year that we have a better panel than we had last year and more players that we can use, although that wasn’t evident today, but we’re under no illusions that we’ve a lot to work on.
“Getting to finals is all very fine, there is an expectation for us to achieve and do something this year.
“We’re not here to make up numbers or to play well or get a feel of what Croke Park is like on All-Ireland final day.
“We’re realistic and we have to believe that we can go out and win the thing and that’s really what we’re all about. If we don’t win it, it’s a disaster,” he concluded.
Clare folk may feel otherwise, but the dramatic conclusion to last Sunday’s semi-final will live long in the memory of Dublin supporters.
The Dubs trailed for the majority of the game but having clawed their way back into contention, two key decisions went their way, ultimately sending them through to the final at the expense of the Banner.
Firstly, Bobby Duggan’s free was signalled wide after consultation with referee David Hughes and from the resultant puck-out, Jamie Shanahan was adjudged to have barged into Cian O’Callaghan and from the ensuing free Oisín O’Rorke popped up to flick Dublin into their second successive final.
Boland said: “I cannot second guess the referee or the linesman. To me, it was out of play and then he gave a free and maybe it did look like a point from where I was standing.
“I didn’t really know to be honest. I’ve seen them given and seen them waved wide. You can’t isolate any one decision as a turning point over the course of a game.
“There were a lot of decisions that I wasn’t happy about, but maybe they weren’t consequential on goals.
“I have no opinion to offer on the referee. It (the free) did look soft enough to me, however.
“We’ve worked really hard on our tackling. Our first day against Wexford, I think they scored 17 frees and we didn’t think that we’d done anything particularly wrong.
“In fairness, I thought the referee did a good job today and was consistent all the way through,” said the St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh clubman.
One thing that couldn’t be challenged was the battling qualities that Dublin showed in coming back from a five-point deficit with a quarter of the contest remaining.
Goals, particularly at crucial times, enabled Dublin to remain in the hunt, but matters still seemed precarious to Boland with the contest entering its dying stages.
“With five minutes to go, if you said we would have won it, I wouldn’t have thought so,” he said.
“Mind you, it was never gone from us and we were never far enough behind to be out of sight and the fellas never dropped their heads. We were behind against Wexford and against Kilkenny for a while,” he said.
“There’s a lot of depth to these lads and we dug in.
“We’ve reminded the lads before the game that if things get tight, they have a great ability to come back and keep going until the very end and they did that.
“You’ll find that we did exactly that against Wexford (Leinster final) when they scored a penalty against us. We went up and scored 1-1 immediately after that and we’ve been able to bounce back in matches, which is a good trait from the lads.
“Early on in the year, we’ve been scoring more goals than we have of late and today was the first day in a while that we scored four.
“They were important goals and they came at key times. When Clare were playing the better hurling and it looked like it was slipping away from us, we were able to get a goal and keep us in the game.”
– Ronan Mac Lochlainn – Evening Herald