Dublin 5-21 Louth 0-15
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
A return to their very best form at Croke Park for Dublin, a lesson in just how ruthless the game can be at the very top level for Louth.
Those were the contrasting storylines from the Leinster football final which Dublin comfortably won by a whopping 21-point margin.
Dessie Farrell’s side used goals as their battering ram to a 13th consecutive title success, Man of the Match Sean Bugler, Paul Mannion, James McCarthy, Paddy Small and Colm Basquel all raising green flags.
Dublin were narrow semi-final victors while Louth approached the final in their best form since last reaching the provincial decider in 2010.
For those reasons, it looked like it might be a closer encounter but Dublin, after gauging Louth’s challenge in the opening 15 minutes or so, took off then and went a long way towards sealing victory by half-time when they led by nine points.
As a result of winning the provincial title they will compete in Group 3 of the new All-Ireland series and will face Roscommon first before taking on Kildare and then Sligo.
Mickey Harte’s Louth, meanwhile, will operate in Group 1 and will have Cork first up, followed by Mayo and Kerry.
The early exchanges suggested that this could be a highly competitive encounter with Louth winning a number of mini battles across the field and pushing up hard on Dublin when the opportunity arose.
A couple of those early snapshots; McCarthy being crowded out and turned over by the Louth defence after just 50 seconds, Conall McKeever’s clever interception of an attempted Brian Howard hand-pass which ended with Louth shooting narrowly wide in the fifth minute and then, three minutes later, Peter Lynch coming away with the ball to leave John Small and Niall Scully in frustration.
And when Louth captain Sam Mulroy, who finished with 0-10, beat Davy Byrne to a ball on the left wing, cut back inside his man and curled over a beauty to move 0-3 to 0-2 ahead, it all looked mightily impressive from the underdogs.
What they didn’t count on was their own kick-out being so ruthlessly turned against them by a street smart Dublin.
That and the surging runs of wing-back McCaffrey from half-back which Louth were unable to defend.
Time and again the former Footballer of the Year used his searing pace to expose gaps in the Louth rearguard, of which there proved to be plenty.
A run of Dublin points, beginning with Cormac Costello’s 15th minute converted free following a foul on McCarthy, gave Dublin the opportunity to seriously test Louth’s kick-out strategy and it proved bountiful.
Mannion’s 23rd minute goal came after a turnover on Niall Sharkey from a James Califf kick-out. Louth had gambled by pouring bodies forward and were badly exposed when the turnover resulted in Dublin attacking them with a five-on-one at the back. A goal was inevitable and O’Callaghan duly picked out Mannion with a pass across goals for a routine palm in.
O’Callaghan added a point before Louth’s kick-out was again turned against them, Califf this time failing to register the required distance and Bugler eventually capitalising with a Dublin point.
In all, Dublin reeled off 1-10 without reply between the 15th and 32nd minutes to effectively put the game beyond Louth.
The All-Ireland hopefuls, leading by 1-12 to 0-6 at half-time, did concede five points in a row to Louth who briefly got it going in the minutes either side of half-time.
It was Louth’s turn in this period to make hay off Dublin’s kick-out and Conor Grimes, among Louth’s best performers this year, drilling an eye-catching score.
Louth needed goals to rescue this game, however, and they never arrived. Dublin, in turn, managed to score four more and it turned out to be shooting practice for a finish up.
McCarthy was set up by Bugler for Dublin’s second goal in the 45th minute. Bugler himself struck the third after a lightning quick attacking move and Paddy Small palmed in the fourth after Lee Gannon’s shot initially crashed back off the crossbar.
Another substitute, Basquel, rounded off the goalscoring deep into stoppage time with a thunderous shot that Califf couldn’t stop despite getting his hands on it.
Scorers for Dublin: Sean Bugler 1-3, Cormac Costello 0-5 (0-3f, 0-1 45), Paul Mannion 1-1 (0-1f), Con O’Callaghan 0-4 (0-1m),James McCarthy 1-0, Paddy Small 1-0, Colm Basquel 1-0, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-3, Jack McCaffrey 0-2, John Small 0-1, Dean Rock 0-1, Sean MacMahon 0-1.
Scorers for Louth: Sam Mulroy 0-10 (0-7f, 0-01 45), Conor Grimes 0-2, Craig Lennon 0-1, Liam Jackson 0-1, Ciaran Downey 0-1.
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Daire Newcombe, David Byrne, Lee Gannon; Brian Howard, John Small, Jack McCaffrey; Brian Fenton, James McCarthy; Niall Scully, Con O’Callaghan, Ciaran Kilkenny; Paul Mannion, Sean Bugler, Cormac Costello.
Subs: Cian Murphy for McCaffrey 32, Paddy Small for Scully 52, Dean Rock for Costello 52, Colm Basquel for Mannion 59, Sean MacMahon for Howard 63.
Louth: James Califf; Dan Corcoran, Peter Lynch, Donal McKenny; Leonard Grey, Niall Sharkey, Ciaran Murphy; Tommy Durnin, Conor Early; Conall McKeever, Sam Mulroy, Conor Grimes; Daire McConnon, Ciaran Downey, Liam Jackson.
Subs: Craig Lennon for McConnon 26, Anthony Williams for Murphy 31, Conall McCaul for Jackson 40, Paul Matthews for Early 55, Ryan Burns for Corcoran 68.
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).