Stephen Cluxton returns as Dublin win promotion to Division One

Stephen Cluxton during warm-up ahead of Dublin's game with Louth on Sunday
Stephen Cluxton during warm-up ahead of Dublin's game with Louth on Sunday

Allianz Football League Division Two round seven

Dublin 0-16 Louth 1-5

DUBLIN sealed their return to Division One and booked a League final place against Derry next weekend on an afternoon where their seven-time All-Ireland-winning captain Stephen Cluxton returned to the squad.

The legendary Parnells clubman hasn’t played for Dessie Farrell’s men since lifting the Sam Maguire Cup in 2020, but answered his manager’s call amid something of an injury crisis in the Dubs’ goalkeeping ranks. 

Cluxton didn’t see game-time as the Leinster champions comfortably saw off Louth to earn promotion back to the top flight but Farrell insists that the serial Allstar winner will be in contention for a starting place over the remainder of the campaign.

“It’s definitely a very welcome addition,” said the Dublin boss.

“Knowing the individual that he is, the competitive juices are always there. He’s always been Dublin through and through and when the time calls, he’d step forward. It’s great to have him.

“He has been training a couple of weeks now. He’s fit and healthy, keen and eager and we’ve a number of goalkeeping injury woes. 

“Evan (Comerford) hasn’t played any minutes this season yet and he’s working his way back to full recovery at some stage during the Championship and Hugh O’Sullivan, our U20 ’keeper, he’s been injured as well recently and is tied up with the U20s.

“We had a vacancy there and Stephen has always said that if he could ever help us out in any way, he’d be willing to do that. We’re delighted to have him in the mix.”

Mickey Harte, meanwhile, was proud of his Louth players despite their unlikely bid for promotion having fallen short. A third-place finish in Division Two represents the county’s best League position in over two decades but the Wee supremo was non-committal when asked if he felt his team had closed the gap to Leinster’s most dominant outfit.

“I don’t think we can be very definitive on what we can speculate on because Dublin are a work in progress as well,” he said.

“We’re all in a position where we feel that we can be better in a month’s time. We’re not ahead of anybody in that sense and where Dublin have improvements to make, our improvements won’t necessarily get us any closer.”

Dublin trailed just once over the match’s duration – at a very early stage – and led by 0-5 to four at the break with Colm Basquel pointing twice. However, the clearest-cut goal chance arrived at the other end when Louth’s Conall McKeever’s powerful shot came back off the post. 

The winners converted the opening five points of the second half, with Brian Fenton and James McCarthy registering, only for Louth to reduce the deficit to three when Liam Jackson finished neatly to the net on 48 minutes. 

Conor Grimes and Dáire McConnon had further major opportunities for the Wee county and those misses proved costly as Dublin continued to contribute points, one of which came from substitute Paul Mannion, to ensure victory. 

“We asked questions of them, that’s for sure, but, ultimately, they provided answers to go up and be in the League final,” added Harte.

Dublin D O’Hanlon; D Newcombe (0-1), D Byrne, M Fitzsimons; J Small, E Murchan, L Gannon; B Fenton (0-1), J McCarthy (0-1); C Basquel (0-3), C Kilkenny, S Buglar (0-2); C Costello (0-2, 1f), C O’Callaghan (0-1), K O’Gara (0-1)

Subs P Small (0-1) for O’Gara (25), T Lahiff for Murchan (HT), P Mannion (0-1) for Basquel (53), L O’Dell (0-1) for Costello (61), R McGarry for Buglar (65), D Rock (0-1, 1 45) for O’Callaghan (70) Yellow card P Small (70)

Louth J Califf (0-1, 1f); D Corcoran, P Lynch, D McKenny; L Grey, C Murphy, N Sharkey; T Durnin, C Early; C McKeever, L Jackson (1-1), C Grimes; D McConnon (0-1), C Downey (0-3, 2f), R Burns

Subs C Lennon for McKenny (44), T Jackson for McKeever (44), C McCaul for Burns (53), B Duffy for Sharkey (56), J Hughes for McConnon (56)

Referee P Faloon (Down)