I really fancied Roscommon to lift their third U21 All-Ireland title today and I’d say the huge Rossie contingent who pitched up at O’Connor Park in Tullamore travelled with a fair bit of expectation too. But it wasn’t to be – the Rossie supporters never got to clear their throats at all as Dublin blew them away with an immaculate point-scoring exhibition in the first half. Dublin scored an incredible thirteen points without replay, the bulk of them from play, in that first half and they already had their county’s fourth U21 All-Ireland in the bag by the break.
The three goals Roscommon got early in the second half put a bit of respectability on the scoreboard but it never was enough to force them back into the contest, not least because they were 1-17 to 0-2 down before they got their opening goal. The goals did, however, at least mean that they weren’t beaten out the gate but they still went down to a fairly comprehensive defeat, losing by 1-21 to 3-6.
Dublin didn’t win their first All-Ireland at this level until 2003 but they’ve now won it three times in the last five years. Coming on top of the seniors’ completion of back-to-back NFL titles last Sunday and their position as reigning All-Ireland champions, not to mention St. Vincents’ All-Ireland club victory in March, it’s clear that there’s no shortage of silverware in the capital at the minute. Indeed, it’s hard to avoid the rather obvious conclusion that we’re now witnessing a period of unparalleled dominance by Dublin at every level of the game.
Resources, including (though not limited to) money, undoubtedly are a major factor in this regard, as is the enormous pool of playing talent in the capital. But so too is organisation and hard work and what I found most striking about today’s win was the way in which Dublin’s superior strength and conditioning and the confident way they played the game shone through. The near-professional approach adopted by Dublin in relation to their under-age development programme in recent years is now producing an unprecedented conveyor belt of talent and, if today’s latest All-Ireland success is any indication (and I think it is) then the rest of us could well have little but a diet of constant Dublin success to look forward to in the years ahead.
If that weren’t sobering enough then the way in which Roscommon were so comprehensively dismantled in today’s final should give us even more pause for thought. This was the same Roscommon team who lashed four goals past our lads in the first round of the Connacht championship back in March on an evening when the gulf between the teams in terms of physical strength was all too apparent. Yet Roscommon were no match for Dublin today in the physical stakes either, which tells you something about where we sit in the scheme of things. Once upon a time, we used to look upon the U21 grade as an area where we excelled (as we frequently did) but it’s now depressingly clear that we’re simply light years off the pace at this level.