Scintillating shooting from Paul Mannion and Conor McHugh powered Dublin to their third All Ireland under-21 football championship title in five years, as the two attackers contributed a combined 1-15 in a 1-21 to 3-6 victory for Dessie Farrell’s men at O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
The damage was done in the first half when Dublin scored 13 times without reply after Mannion and Ultan Harney traded points in the first two minutes.
Second-half goals from Diarmuid Murtagh (twice) and Ciaran Kilcline gave the massive Roscommon support something to cheer in the second half but Dublin’s victory was never in doubt despite their efforts.
The light rain and solid surface made for a very high tempo in this fixture and played into the hands of fast-moving forwards at both ends of the field.
But while Robert McDaid and Patrick O’Higgins dropped deep to cut off several long Roscommon deliveries in front of the Dublin goal and essentially starved Diarmuid Murtagh and Donie Smith of possession, Roscommon had no answer to their Leinster counterparts at the other end of the field in the first half.
Conor McHugh was in spectacular form and made a very strong case for consideration to the Dublin senior management as he produced some wonderful scores, most notably with a sumptuous chip-lift and shot in one movement in the seventh minute and again when he followed that up with a neat kick on the run 60 seconds later.
At 0-7 to 0-1 in arrears after 12 minutes the Roscommon ship was taking on water from all sides, but they were handed a reprieve when Thomas Corcoran’s shot for a point was partially blocked and fell into the arms of Donie Smith on the 20m line.
Dublin’s David Byrne brought down Smith with a high tackle and left Barry Cassidy with an easy decision to award the penalty and brandish a black card to the Naomh Olaf defender.
It looked like a lifeline for Roscommon but Lorcan Molloy produced a fine save to parry Smith’s penalty (below), diving down to his right.
Smith followed this up with another bad wide and while the rate of scoring at the Roscommon end of the field slowed up, Dublin’s back line continued to hold a vice like grip on the Roscommon forwards.
Trailing 0-14 to 0-1 at half time there looked to be no hope of a Roscommon comeback and Dublin immediately picked up where they left off after the restart, adding three more points and a well-worked McHugh goal in the first five minutes of the second half.
At this stage Dublin now had 1-17 on the board, with just two wides to their credit.
However, Roscommon continued to work hard and they got their reward with a brief purple patch between the 36th and the 44th minutes.
Diarmuid Murtagh kickstarted their surge with a point from only his fourth clean possession of the tie, while the same player immediately punched home a goal after approach play from Adrian Gleeson and Mark Healy set up the chance at the edge of the small square.
Kilcline followed this up with a blasted shot to the roof of the net after he ran on to a breaking ball and the massive Roscommon following nearly raised the roof when captain David Murray set up Murtagh for another flicked goal to reduce the deficit to single figures.
However, McHugh settled Dublin’s nerves with another wonderful long-range point, bringing his tally for the day to 1-6, all from play, and while Roscommon continued to work hard and added further scores from Harney, Murtagh and Enda Smith, Dublin always had enough in the tank to keep them at arm’s length and close out their victory.
Dublin: L Molloy; R McGowan, D Byrne, R McDaid; C Mullally, J Small, J McCaffrey (0-01); P O’Higgins, B Fenton; S Boland, E Lowndes, N Scully (0-01); P Mannion (0-09, 0-06 frees 0-01 ‘45), C Costello (0-03, 0-02 frees), C McHugh (1-06).
Subs: E Ó’Conghaíle for Byrne (13 B/C), G Hanningan for Boland (44), G Ivory for O’Higgins (45), S Cunningham (0-01) for Costello (50), N Walsh for Mannion (60).
Roscommon: C Lavin; S Mullooly, C Kenny, D Murray; C Daly, J McManus, R Daly; U Harney (0-02), T Corcoran; C Kilcline (1-00), M Healy, E Smith (0-01); M Nally, D Murtagh (2-03, 0-02 frees), D Smith.
Subs: M Gunning for Nally (22), T Featherston for C Kenny (24), N McInerney for C Daly (29), A Gleeson for Gunning (HT), S Flynn for R Daly (50), S Killoran for Healy (59).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)