Dublin 2-15 Meath 0-14
Dublin had to dig very deep and it took a brilliantly-finished goal by the excellent Paul Mannion on the hour to provide them with some much needed breathing space at the end.
That marked a famous double for Dublin, after the hurlers’ recent success, and the first time the Leinster double had been achieved since Offaly in 1981.
Meath provided Dublin with a stern examination of their credentials in front of 54,485 people and scored the last six points of the first half to lead 0-9 to 1-4 at half time.
That was an advantage they deserved and at that juncture Dublin were clearly rattled, not knowing how to deal with not having things their own way.
They were much more composed after the restart though and while they continued to be pushed really hard by Meath, they had just too much in hand at the end.
The Royals were given absolutely no hope beforehand but made the naysayers look foolish right from the off.
Stephen Bray rolled back the years with a performance full of vigour and had a point on the board after 23 seconds. He turned Rory O’Carroll soon afterwards and blasted inches over from 14m.
Paul Mannion and Ciarán Kilkenny were Dublin’s best operators and it was Mannion who got Dublin off the mark with a free in the fourth minute.
Paul Flynn lifted a left-footed shot to the roof of the net a minute later, after Kilkenny’s sumptuous delivery found Mannion, who timed his offload to perfection.
Points from Diarmuid Connolly and Mannion suggested the possibility that Dublin were about to cut loose but Meath were having none of that.
They tackled ferociously and were full of life up top, with Michael Newman – who finished with eight points – their most dangerous operator.
Champion sprinter Eamonn Wallace left Johnny Cooper for dead before fisting over and by the time he fired over his second from 40m, Newman had three on the board, including a 50m free and a lovely effort from play following a brilliant pass from Bray.
Newman landed another free from distance and Meath went in at the break two points clear.
Jim Gavin must have been delighted to get a hold of his men at that stage and he certainly earned his corn during the interval.
They were a much calmer crew in the second half, with Kilkenny belying his youth by having a hand in everything positive.
He had a point immediately after the resumption, made another for Flynn after Brogan landed his only score from a free and bagged two more in response’ to a Newman pointed free.
Brian Meade and Newman, following a brilliant dummy, brought Meath back level but Stephen Cluxton, who wasn’t as accurate as normal with four wides, restored the lead from a free.
Wallace wasted a glorious goal chance after receiving a deft pass from Bray, who was foiled by Cluxton later on.
Mannion hit two points for Dublin, with one from a free that he won himself after displaying tremendous workrate to force a turnover.
And it was the Kilmacud Crokes corner-forward who grabbed the match-winning goal in the 60th minute, showing the soccer skills that made him a prospect with Home Farm by slotting off the turf from 14m, after Paddy O’Rourke had saved from Kevin O’Brien.
Meath fought hard but Dublin’s substitutes, Denis Bastick and Dean Rock were impressing and the Blues were worthy victors in the end.
Scorers – Dublin: P Mannion 1-4(0-1fs); P Flynn 1-1; C Kilkenny, S Cluxton (2fs, 1 45) 0-3 each; D Rock 0-2(1f); D Connolly, B Brogan (f)
Meath: M Newman 0-8(5fs); E Wallace, S Bray 0-2 each; B Meade, J Sheridan 0-1 each
Dublin: S Cluxton; K O’Brien, R O’Carroll, J Cooper; J McCarthy, G Brennan, J McCaffrey; MD Macauley, C O’Sullivan; P Flynn, C Kilkenny, D. Connolly; P Mannion, E O’Gara, B Brogan. Subs: K McManamon for Brogan blood (17-19); McManamon for O’Gara (47); D Bastick for O’Sullivan (47); D Daly for Brennan (58); D rock for Brogan (61); B Cullen for Connolly (66)
Meath: P O’Rourke; D Keoghan, K Reilly, B Menton; P Harnan, M Burke, S Kenny; B Meade, C Gillespie; E Wallace, D Carroll, G Reilly; P Byrne, S Bray, M Newman. Subs: P Gilsenan for Byrne (42); C Lenihan for Kenny (50); J Sheridan for Carroll (52); A Tormey for Meade (61); D McDonagh Wallace (66)
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois)