If Meath’s Michael Newman had swapped jerseys with Niall Scully before the start of yesterday’s Leinster final, then all six starting Dublin forwards would have been on the scoresheet.
Why didn’t Niall Scully manage to get a score yesterday? Hard work. Unselfish hard work off the ball, stopping and tracking the runs of Donal Keogan.
The Meath joint captain was one of the main reasons that the Royals were successful in getting to the provincial final. He’s a tireless, unassuming grafter who carries the fight to the opposition every time he puts on the green jersey.
Naturally, Jim Gavin and co would have recognised this fact. Let’s stop Keogan and see what Meath are made of. Niall Scully is the perfect forward to execute this unattractive duty. Scully excels in the physical stakes and thankfully we still have some physicality left in football, well the small bits that the officials still allow.
To be fair to the Tyrone referee Sean Hurson, he did allow the game to flow as much as possible. He gave Meath four scoreable free kicks in the first half. Ben Brennan, the Meath place-kicker, missed his two opportunities from 30 metres. He missed two frees from very similar positions in the Leinster semi-final versus Laois. Four frees from the ground with his left foot from almost identical positions. Lack of practice? Only Ben can answer that but maybe he was just knackered from chasing Jack McCaffrey around Croke Park.
Apologies, Dr Jack McCaffrey. I think the doctor has invented a way of getting faster. The rain dampened the trail of smoke coming from his boots. He can create goalscoring opportunities with almost every gallop he makes. He gathers the ball and with no fuss, he just propels away from his dejected marker.
In contract, Meath’s speedster Cillian O’Sullivan couldn’t quite lose his designated marker, John Small. Small was so close to Cillian O’Sullivan that he could easily have tied the bun in O’Sullivan’s hair. Touch tight, like all the Dublin defenders.
Philly McMahon on Mickey Newman and Mick Fitzsimons on wee James Conlon. Conlon got too much 50-50 ball pegged straight at him and that’s easy pickings for the wily Fitz. The problem for the Royal inside duo of Newman and Conlon was that, similar to most of the Laois game, the ball was not delivered quickly and was largely devoid of quality.
Unlike Roscommon, who kicked quality ball into space for Cox and Murtagh, Meath lacked the courage to kick pass to their inside forwards. Meath scored their fourth point in the 71st minute. A 40-yard kick pass into Michael Newman who had peeled off Rory O’Carroll. A dummy solo from the Meath full-forward and a lovely right-footed strike over the bar.
Newman is a top forward who will score heavily if he gets plenty of leather. If Meath are to make the Super 8, he has to stay inside and stop wandering out the field. Trust his players will kick the ball in and then perform his primary duty, which is to score.
Dublin have no shyness when it comes to scoring. Supporters will talk today of the Meath wides but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Dublin could have scored at least four more goals on top of the bullet that they got.
The Ballymun pairing of Rock and McMahon were unlucky with their attempts but Dean Rock made up for his miss with a beautifully weighted handpass that nestled neatly into the onrushing Con O’Callaghan and he shook the raindrops off the net with his thundering rocket. A well deserved score for O’Callaghan who had won several frees for his free-taker with his burrowing runs.
Who will take the frees for Dublin in the Super 8? Costello or Rock? Costello scored all four placed kicks against Kildare but he missed two yesterday. His last act yesterday was to kick a 14m free wide. Granted, the free was on his less favourable side and Paul Mannion probably should have taken it as it suited a ciotóg. Costello missed it and was hauled ashore while Dean Rock immediately scored a hat-trick of Dublin points.
What a wonderful headache for Jim Gavin. Two excellent freetakers who’ll drive each other on. Every Dublin player is driving each other on. Are their performances perfect? Of course not but they’re winning easily without producing the ‘Perfect 10’ and they’ve tenacity etched all over their performance.
Cian O’Sullivan exemplified this tenacious desire yesterday with some wonderful tackling and Dublin will hope that his wingman, James McCarthy, will be able to assist him in the coming weeks.
Every player can be replaced, as Jim Gavin has unflinchingly shown over the years, but McCarthy is a rare breed.
Mike Quirke reviews the GAA weekend with Oisín McConville, Donncha O'Connor and Tony Leen.