Dublin destroy Louth with five-goal blast in record-breaking Leinster SFC Final win

Paul Mannion with the Delaney Cup after Dublin's win over Louth
Paul Mannion with the Delaney Cup after Dublin's win over Louth Paul Mannion with the Delaney Cup after Dublin's win over Louth

2023 Leinster SFC Final: Dublin (holders) 5-21 Louth 0-15

DUBLIN "battered" Louth – then Dessie Farrell banged the drum again to signal the death knell for the provincial format.

The Dubs racked up a record-breaking tally in a Leinster SFC Final, and equalled their biggest winning margin in any of their 13 consecutive victories, yet Louth weren't terrible, in fact they performed pretty well in parts of this match.

'The wee county' led three times, were level after 14 minutes, scored a run of 0-5 unanswered either side of half-time, and Sam Mulroy top-scored on the day with 0-10 - but were still utterly blown away by Dublin's brilliance and desire for goals.

Five of those major scores came, from Paul Mannion, captain James McCarthy, 'man of the match' Sean Bugler, and substitutes Paddy Small and Colm Basquel as Dublin's array of attacking talent proved far too much for Mickey Harte's men.

The former Tyrone boss acknowledged that the Louth squad will have to lift themselves out of a hole ahead of hosting in their Group 1 opener on the last weekend of this month:

"It is a harsh lesson for players. It is one thing getting beaten, it is another thing getting battered and that is what happened to us today.

"But sometimes, that happens in football and you have to learn from every outcome. You like when you win things and like when you make comebacks. But Dublin are just a very good team."

Harte also reckoned that the criticism Dublin received after their laboured semi-final win over Kildare had contributed to their performance against his team:

"You have to be on the ball when you are playing a team of their quality. And I think there was a bit of angst in their game, because people were nearly starting to doubt them.

"I think they made a statement and to make that statement against a team like Louth, who are progressing, they are climbing a ladder. We feel we are a decent side and getting that sort of lesson from Dublin suggests to me that they have found an angst in their game again."

Dublin boss Farrell made his intentions clear by bringing Jack McCaffrey, Brian Howard, and Niall Scully into the starting line-up, instead of Cian Murphy, Tom Lahiff, and Basquel.

They didn't click at first, with Mulroy thrice putting Louth ahead, but from the 14th minute on, albeit from a soft free converted by Cormac Costello, Dublin reeled off 1-10, with the goal coming in the 23rd minute, Con O'Callaghan setting Mannion up to palm in at the back upright.

"We weren't at ourselves. But once we settled into the game we got a fairly sustained period of dominance in that half that we capitalised on," commented Farrell.

The platform was Dublin dominating Louth's kick-outs, with Harte suggesting his side should have altered their approach: "We were our own worst enemy, to some extent, in that we were playing kick-outs to the middle of the field. We were winning those sort of balls in other games but Dublin were prepared for it and probably we didn't adjust to that and get some control for ourselves. And they are so sharp in the break, they pressed very high and they didn't give us much option for the short kick-out."

Once Dublin got their noses in front they never looked back, although Louth did respond later in the half, to leave it 1-12 to 0-6 at the interval.

Louth added the next two scores as well, but Dublin snuffed out any hopes of a contest when McCaffrey's replacement Cian Murphy kept in a Mannion effort and teed up McCarthy for his goal.

Con O'Callaghan and Ciaran Kilkenny began to motor and both were involved in setting up Bugler to find the net 20 minutes into the second half.

O'Callaghan and Paddy Small both had shots for goal blocked, but the latter did beat Louth goalkeeper James Califf – and fellow sub Dean Rock – to slam the ball to the net in the 69th minute after it had rocketed up off the crossbar from Lee Gannon's rasping shot.

It seemed that Dublin might only level their tally from last year (5-17 against Kildare), when Rock chose to take a fisted point in added time, but Basquel showed great strength to hold off Conor Grimes and blast in a shot that was too hot for Califf to keep out.

Having matched their winnng margin against Meath from three years ago, but score more than in any previous Leinster decider, Farrell repeated his call for change:

"The GAA won't need me to tell them this, of course. For years I've been banging that particular drum. Look, I get it, it's quite political: provincial councils have been established a long time and feel that they have a role and a responsibility and that their contribution is important to the GAA.

"While that is definitely the case, I think it's probably time to have a proper review of the competition and see who does this benefit, these big wins, the big discrepancies between teams? Is there a better mixture? So my tune hasn't changed on that in a number of years."

Dublin: S Cluxton; D Newcombe, D Byrne, J McCaffrey (0-2); L Gannon, J Small (0-1), B Howard; B Fenton, J McCarthy (1-0); N Scully, S Bugler (1-3), C Kilkenny (0-3); P Mannion (1-1, 0-1 free), C O'Callaghan (0-4, 0-2 marks), C Costello (0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 45).

Substitutes: C Murphy for McCaffrey (31); D Rock (0-1) for Costello (52); P Small (1-0) for Scully (52); C Basquel (1-0) for Mannion (59); S McMahon (0-1) for Howard (63).

Louth: J Califf; D Corcoran, P Lynch, D McKenny; L Grey, N Sharkey, C Murphy; T Durnin, C Early; C McKeever, S Mulroy (0-10, 0-7 frees, 0-1 45), C Grimes (0-2); D McConnon, C Downey (0-1), L Jackson (0-1).

Substitutes: C Lennon (0-1) for McConnon (26); A Williams for Murphy (31); C McCaul for Jackson (40); P Mathews for Early (55); R Burns for Corcoran (68)

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).

Attendance: 40,115.