EirGrid U20 Final: Galway edge out Dublin

EirGrid All Ireland Under 20 Football Championship Final


By Paul Keane at Croke Park

Croke Park was finally Tomo Culhane's field of dreams as the former minor star powered Galway to the EirGrid All-Ireland U-20 football title.

Culhane, a star of last year's minor team that lost out to Cork in the final, hit 1-6 as Galway overcame a stubborn Dublin to claim a sixth title between the U-20 and U-21 grades and their first since 2013.

Galway senior Matthew Tierney was influential for Galway too with 0-4 and a 59th minute point from a free which proved to be the winner.

Goalkeeper Conor Flaherty also kept a clean sheet, hours after starting and scoring for the county U-20 team in their Leinster championship win over Kilkenny in Portlaoise.

It's back to back final defeats for Tom Gray's Dublin who battled bravely and reduced a six-point deficit to just one on two separate occasions late on.

Galway were without several key players for their semi-final win over Kerry due to Covid-19 issues and made several anticipated team changes.

Galway senior Paul Kelly, Cathal Sweeney - who was replaced through injury after 18 minutes - and powerful Culhane all came into the team while Dublin returned captain Rory Dwyer to their lineup.

Dwyer was an ever present throughout the Leinster championship in spring but only appeared as a sub in the All-Ireland semi-final win over Tyrone following an injury.

Full-forward Tierney moved to full-forward for the throw-in and worked a clever mark just seconds into the contest to set up Galway's opening score.

Ciaran Archer, the reigning U-20 Player of the Year who came into the final with 1-23 to his credit following a remarkable 10-35 in the 2019 campaign, spun away from his man to snipe a Dublin point and level it.

The exciting start suggested an open encounter and that's what followed with Galway edging the opening exchanges and opening up a 0-4 to 0-2 lead.

Tierney and Culhane scored two points each and Ryan Monahan, an All-Ireland intermediate club winner at Croke Park with Oughterard early in the year, had a superb goal chance but overcarried.

Jack Glynn captained Galway to EirGrid All Ireland Under 20 glory at Croke Park.
Jack Glynn captained Galway to EirGrid All Ireland Under 20 glory at Croke Park.

Dublin responded with points from Mark Lavin, a consistent performer throughout their six-game campaign, and Brian O'Leary, a finalist in 2019, to tie it up at 0-4 apiece at the water break.

Dual player Lee Gannon was impressive for Dublin and set up a Luke Swan point but it was their only point for the rest of the half and Galway took a deserved 0-8 to 0-5 lead at the interval.

The Connacht champions outscored Dublin by 0-4 to 0-1 in the second quarter with scores from Culhane, Tierney and Matthew Cooley leaving them in a strong position in a relatively low scoring game.

Culhane stretched the lead to four early in the second-half and then struck a 37th minute goal that left Galway in a strong position, 1-9 to 0-6 ahead.

Tierney did the running in the buildup to the goal before eventually laying off to Culhane whose shot deflected in off Dwyer.

Leading now by six points, Galway relied upon that cushion in the closing 20 minute or as Dublin attacked in waves at times and reeled off four points in a row at one stage from Adam Fearon, Mark Lavin and Lorcan O'Dell to cut the gap to just one.

They couldn't get any closer than that though and Tierney's converted free with one minute of normal time to go proved to be decisive.

Scorers for Galway: Tomo Culhane 1-6 (3fs, 1m), Matthew Tierney 0-4 (1m, 1f), Matthew Cooley 0-1.

Scorers for Dublin: Mark Lavin 0-4 (1f), Brian O'Leary 0-2, Lorcan O'Dell 0-2, Adam Fearon 0-2, Ciaran Archer 0-1, Luke Swan 0-1, Lee Gannon 0-1.

GALWAY: Conor Flaherty; Jonathan McGrath, Sean Fitzgerald, Jack Glynn; Cian Monahan, Tony Gill, Cathal Sweeney; Conor Raftery, Cian Hernon; Paul Kelly, Matthew Tierney, Ryan Monahan; Patrick Kelly, Tomo Culhane, Matthew Cooley.

Subs: Jack Kirrane for Sweeney (18), Alan Greene for Hernon (34), Eoin Mannion for Cooley (46), Daniel Cox for Paul Kelly (53), Warren Seoige for Culhane (61).

DUBLIN: Josh O'Neill; Conor Tyrrell, Adam Rafter, Josh Bannon; Rory Dwyer, Adam Waddick, Lee Gannon; Adam Fearon, Mark O'Leary; Mark Lavin, Lorcan O'Dell, Sean Lowry; Ciaran Archer, Luke Swan, Brian O'Leary.

Subs: Kieran McKeon for Lowry (46), Padraig Purcell for Fearon (64).

REFEREE: Paul Faloon (Down).