Paul Keane reports from St Loman’s, Mullingar
AARON BYRNE MADE light of the atrocious conditions in Mullingar to reel off 2-3 from play as Dublin began their quest for four EirGrid Leinster U21 football championship titles on the trot with a big win.
The Na Fianna attacker set Dessie Farrell’s side on their way with an 11th minute goal and bookended a terrific display with a second major five minutes from time.
Con O’Callaghan and Colm Basquel, both part of the Dublin senior panel last summer, contributed 0-7 between them though it wasn’t as comfortable a win as the scoreline suggests.
There was just four points between the sides with 43 minutes on the clock and Dublin required a strong finale that yielded 1-8 without reply to set up a semi-final clash with Longford on 22 March.
That game was originally scheduled for 15 March though the Leinster Council have this evening confirmed that the game will go ahead a week later.
Dublin claimed last year’s Leinster title, their third on the trot, with just one county senior on board, O’Callaghan, and have more star names involved this year.
Goalkeeper Evan Comerford, Basquel and defender Shane Clayton have all played for the Dublin seniors this year while O’Callaghan is sure to be involved when his AIB club hurling commitments with Cuala wrap up.
The dual star, who hit 1-3 last weekend for his club in their All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Slaughtneil, troubled Westmeath and carved out six scoring chances inside the first 20 minutes alone.
He failed to convert five of them though and Dublin were generally wasteful, kicking 11 wides in the game, so took a mere 1-6 to 0-4 lead into the interval. Byrne helped himself to 1-2 of that early tally while O’Callaghan clipped two points.
Niall Mitchell pointed for Westmeath after the restart to reduce the deficit to four points but John Keane’s side only added one more point, in injury-time.
Dublin finished much stronger and O’Callaghan began a scoring burst of 1-8 that included points from Byrne, Eoin Murchan, Basquel and Chris Sallier as well as Byrne’s second goal.
Scorers for Dublin: Aaron Byrne 2-3, Con O’Callaghan 0-5 (0-4f), Colm Basquel 0-2, Chris Sallier 0-1, Glenn O’Reilly 0-1, Cian Murphy 0-1, Eoin Murchan 0-1 (0-1f).
Scorers for Westmeath: Darren Giles 0-2 (0-1f), Daire Conway 0-1, Ronan O’Toole 0-1, Niall Mitchell 0-1 (0-1f), Ciaran Shanley 0-1.
1. Evan Comerford (Ballymun Kickhams)
4. Darren Byrne (Raheny)
6. Sean McMahon (Raheny)
5. Shane Clayton (Ballyboden St Enda’s)
17. Cian Murphy (Thomas Davis)
3. Cillian O’Shea (Kilmacud Crokes)
2. Eoin Murchan (Na Fianna)
7. Brian Howard (Raheny)
8. Andy Foley (Clontarf)
15. Tom Fox (Kilmacud Crokes)
18. Sean Bugler (St Oliver Plunketts Eoghan Ruadh)
10. Glen O’Reilly (Na Fianna)
14. Aaron Byrne (Na Fianna)
11. Con O’Callaghan (Cuala)
22. Stephen Smith (Skerries Harps)
12. Colm Basquel (Ballyboden St Enda’s) for Bugler (h/t)
13. Chris Sallier (Thomas Davis) for Smith (39)
19. Darren Gavin (Lucan Sarsfields) for O’Reilly (48)
23. Ben Shovlin (Kilmacud Crokes) for Fox (57)
9. Donal McIlgorm (Skerries Harps) for O’Callaghan (61)
1. Kevin Fagan (Tubberclair)
7. Matthew Darling (Athlone)
3. Ronan Wallace (Multyfarnham)
2. Peter Murray (The Downs)
5. Daire Conway (Shandonagh)
6. Mark Kelly (The Downs)
4. Boidu Sayeh (Rosemount)
8. Niall Mitchell (The Downs)
9. Liam O’Reilly (Milltownpass)
12. Eoin O’Brien (Coralstown/Kinnegad)
14. Sam Duncan (Milltownpass)
13. Jack Kearney (Ballynacargy)
11. Ronan O’Toole (St Lomans)
10. Shane Clavin (St Malachys)
15. Darren Giles (Coralstown/Kinnegad)
19. Ciaran Shanley (Shandonagh) for O’Brien (h/t)
18. Ian McGovern (Multyfarnham) for Conway (h/t)
20. Gavin Murray (Moate All Whites) for Kearney (39)
21. Conor Dillon (Milltown) for Kelly (39)
17. Tye Adamson (Mullingar Shamrocks) for O’Toole (52)
23. Robbie Curley (Tubberclair) for Clavin (52)
Referee: Davey Moore (Laois).
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