Add capCork captain Michael Shields lifts the New Ireland Cup on Sunday after defeating Dublin.tion
Dulbin boss Pat Gilroy has backed his Blues to put their latest Croke Park heartache behind and prove their true character in the championship battles to come this summer.

The Dubs capitulated on the big stage once again when they blew an eight point lead against All-Ireland champions Cork before losing Sunday’s Allianz National Football League final by just a point, 0-21 to 2-14.

The same old questions were asked of Dublin and of Gilroy after the game, with the consensus view suggesting that this current Dubs side just doesn’t have the stomach for the big occasion.

Gilroy positively bristled when that point was made to him at the post match press conference before the manager made a defiant defense of his players.

“This team has more character and more guts to put up with the sort of stuff that surrounds them every day, and they still get back out there and train and work,” insisted Gilroy.

“They’re the most honest guys you’ll find. They’ll get stick for this but we’ll deal with that because it’s our job.

“When we got into an eight point lead, we lost a couple of guys and we fell apart really in terms of our shape. There are a lot of lessons for us to learn.

“We did create the chances at the end and we didn’t finish them either. We probably should have been even further ahead when we were eight points ahead.

“The lesson for us that when you are playing the All-Ireland champions and Allianz League champions is that they are always going to come at you. There is tons for us to learn.

Cork had to dig deep to catch Dublin and then move past them in the final quarter, but their big match experience was a major factor according to half-back Noel O’Leary.

“The experience gained by Cork over the years told a small bit today. We kept plugging away after Dublin got their second goal and started winning a bit more breaking ball around the middle of the field,” said O’Leary.

“I suppose it is great to have won it again but it would be a display we are feeling mixed about. It was a good comeback and we’re delighted with the way it turned out.

The league win means Cork will be red hot favorites to retain their All-Ireland crown come September, but O’Leary doesn’t see it that way.

He added, “The championship is a totally different ball game. We have no God given right to win the thing. It is great to have won today but we are going to move on.”

Cork manager Conor Counihan also knows his team have work to do before the advent of summer and the start of the Munster championship.

“We couldn’t afford to give an eight-point lead on another day. You don’t get away with that very often. We have a lot to work on, but it was good to see how we stood up as a team and a panel to grind out a good result,” said Counihan.

Injuries are still a concern for Counihan ahead of the championship.

He confirmed, “John Miskella has a back problem, Fintan Gould has a calf and Paul Kerrigan has a hamstring. There has a lot been happening between club championship so hopefully we can get everyone back over the next few weeks.”

Louth Wins
LOUTH finally got that Leinster final out of their system with a 1-15 to 0-13 victory over Westmeath in Saturday night’s NFL Division Three final at Croke Park.
Less than a year after their controversial defeat to Meath in the provincial decider, Wee County boss Peter Fitzpatrick declared, “That was as good as winning any Leinster title.”
Louth won by five points in the end and Fitzpatrick added, “The big plus today coming into the game was knowing we’re in Division Two next year. It’s always nice to come to Croke Park and win a trophy and I think the people in Louth are very, very happy.
“Just do me one favor -- from now on, what happened last year in the Leinster final is over and done with. This win was as good as winning any Leinster title. I’m just delighted.”
Louth’s Man of the Match’ Paddy Keenan also stated that his team is moving on from the debacle of Joe Sheridan’s match winning goal for Meath last year.
Keenan stated, “We’re trying to move on from that. We’re a small county, we need every bounce of the ball to go with us. We’ll put as much work as we can into it, hopefully get a bit of luck along the way, and use this win towards building for the championship.”
Meanwhile, Louth captain Keenan has asked why the GAA didn’t switch the Croke Park floodlights on until after the final whistle on Saturday night after the NFL Division Three final finished in near darkness.
“I don’t know what the point of turning on the lights when the game was over was,” said Keenan. “Definitely in the second half it was very dark.
“I have bad enough eyesight at the best of times without it being dark. If we were training in that we’d be complaining that we wanted the lights on. I don’t know what the decision was there.”
Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan was disappointed but realistic as he reacted to the Louth defeat.
“It’s a learning curve for our guys,” said Flanagan. “There are an awful lot of them playing in their first competitive game at Croke Park.”

Donegal Wins
DONEGAL showed real character to hang on for a 2-11 to 0-16 win after the dismissal of Adrian Hanlon for a second yellow card offence in Sunday’s NFL Division Two final win over Laois.
Jim McGuinness’s side, eight points ahead at one stage, had to withstand huge pressure after Hanlon’s dismissal as Laois staged a stirring second half fightback.
McGuinness said, “When we went down to 14 men we were under a lot of pressure, but the players showed the hunger and desire to play for the Donegal jersey and the manner in which they carved out the victory was most pleasing.
“It doesn’t surprise me because they have scrapped hard for the wins we had during the league campaign. To repeat it again was encouraging and gives us much to look forward to ahead of the championship and the game against Antrim.”
Donegal star defender Kevin Cassidy added, “We are satisfied. We knew it was going to be tight after being down in Laois a few weeks ago.
“They are a good physical side and have good footballers. I suppose we put a plan together to deal with that today and it worked to a certain extent.”
Antrim are next up for Donegal, with Cassidy aware his team will need to be more clinical in the Ulster SFC opener.
“We were disappointed going in at halftime because we had a decent lead and let it slip to three points,” he added.
“But we came out and wanted a good start and the first couple of score. A goal after halftime really set away and by rights it should have killed the game. We’ll have to work on it.”

Longford Wins
LONGFORD finally won a trophy when Glenn Ryan’s team surprised Connacht champions Roscommon with a 2-11 to 1-8 win in the NFL Division Four final at Croke Park on Saturday night.
Boss Ryan, the Kildare legend, felt his players were full value for the win and said, “It’s great for these fellas and they worked hard for it.
“At the end of the day it’s a national title and we’ll be delighted with it. They all played well and it was a huge experience for them to get up here and get a result.
“It’s a long time since a Longford team has got something up here at senior level and that carried a certain amount of pressure and I’m delighted with the way they handled it.”
Longford led by just two points, 2-2 to 1-3 at the break, but made their presence felt in a dominant second-half.