The U21 All-Ireland semi-finals were played this evening and with Dublin and Donegal winning through, against Roscommon and Tipperary respectively, the stage is now set for the first national decider between these two counties since the senior All-Ireland final back in 1992. I wasn’t at either of this evenings matches but, having promised my little Dub that I’d take him to the All-Ireland should the Jacks make it that far, I expect that I’ll be heading off with him (and, perhaps, his two sisters as well) to the decider in a fortnight’s time.
The Brother was up in Breffni Park this evening to see the young Dubs make short work of Connacht champions Roscommon, who never recovered from the hammer blow of shipping two early goals. As we saw in our Connacht semi-final against them, the Sheepstealers are enormously reliant on Donie Shine and, while he did all he could to drag his team back into the game after those two early goals, it simply wasn’t enough. The Rossies did manage to close the gap to three points midway through the second half but Dublin then upped the ante once more and were comfortable eight-point winners at the end, with the final score 2-10 to 0-8 in Dublin’s favour.
From a Connacht perspective, Roscommon’s defeat in the All-Ireland semi-final is a disappointment, coming as it does on top of three defeats in a row at the penultimate stage for our lads since 2007. It’s easy, I suppose, to imagine that with the talent we had available to us at U21 this year, we would have given the Dubs a much better game but the simple fact is that we failed to get past a limited enough Roscommon team back on Paddy’s Day. The rest is just supposin’ supposin’ stuff.
I’d say viewers from places like Cork, Kerry, Tyrone and Armagh were also shaking their heads in bafflement during the live televised coverage (on good old TG4) of the Donegal v Tipp semi-final from Parnell Park. The first half, which ended with Donegal 0-3 to 0-1 ahead, was absolutely dire and it was hard to believe that we were watching the current U21 Munster champions squaring up to their Ulster counterparts. Donegal did, in fairness, provide some evidence as to their capabilities in the second half, as they eased away from the Stone Throwers to win – like the Dubs did – by a margin of eight points, on a scoreline of twelve to four.
From what I can gather, Dublin’s victory this evening was far more impressive than Donegal’s win was and I’d expect to see the young Metropolitans going to post as slight favourites on May Day. Older and, perhaps, wiser heads will, however, recall that Dublin’s seniors were huge favourites to prevail over the Herrin Gutters when they met in the All-Ireland in 1992 but the Donegal lads had the last laugh that day. So while the Dubs should have what it takes to land their second ever national title in this grade, you can be sure that Donegal will push them all the way, as they seek to land what would be their third U21 All-Ireland. It should be an interesting tussle in two weeks time.