Meath were dogged and they managed to squeeze the deficit back to a single point with just 14 minutes to go but they were unable to hold onto the tiger’s coat-tails as Tipperary did with the Dubs last year before landing a killer blow in the dying moments.
Yesterday’s victory took them level with Kerry at the head of this particular roll of honour with 11 titles and, at this juncture, there would only appear to be one obvious contender to make it to the dozen mark in the near future.
Meath had made it as far as yesterday’s decider courtesy of a freakish defeat of Mayo in the semi-final but all that earned them was a second meeting with a Dublin team that had steamed past them with 12 points to spare in the provincial final.
The scars of that day were apparent from the off when their left-half-forward, James McEntee, vacated his slot for a berth sweeping along the half-back line and, in fairness, it was a role he conducted with a great degree of success.
Meath’s entire defence was excellent, actually. Dublin’s much vaunted forward line – with Cormac Costello chief among them – never got the space that allowed them punish Meath to such effect back in July.
However, so focused were Meath preventing scores at one end that it inhibited their ability to rack up anything close to enough at the other.
“The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result and this was our third time playing Dublin this year,” said Meath manager Andy McEntee. “Setting up the same way, we felt we wouldn’t be able to cope with them.
“There were plusses and minuses to the way we set up but we were still in it with ten minutes to go which is what we wanted. We just weren’t strong enough to finish it off. They also have a very strong substitutes’ bench so it’s hard to compete with them.”
Meath weren’t long in firing a warning shot across the blue bows. Fiachra Ward, younger brother of senior stalwart Cian, was denied a first-minute goal only by the legs of goalkeeper Lorcan Molloy but it was the first and last sight they would have of the rigging.
Ward did at least claim a pointed free for his troubles in that particular attack but they would add only one more white flag to their tally in the first-half with Dunderry’s Stephen Coogan isolated at full-forward for lengthy spells.
Dublin, with centre-back Conor Mulally operating as a spare man in their half-back line, were harried and harassed at every turn but they never panicked and orchestrated enough space and scores to make it a comfortable ride.
Costello, though double and triple-marked at times, picked off three frees and one from play despite being surrounded by three opponents and almost 50 yards away from the target when he swung his foot with almost no backswing.
By the break, the score was 0-7 to 0-2. The gap grew again to six points when Niall Scully pointed five minutes after the resumption but Meath interrupted the coronation with a mini-revival that saved the game from being a complete let-down.
Two points had already been bagged by the time Niall Walsh was penalised for a foot block on Meath substitute Patrick Kennelly inside the Dublin penalty area and the end result was a goal from the spot courtesy of Ward.
Game on. Or so we thought.
If any Dublin players experienced flashbacks of the 2011 decider it didn’t show. Within ten minutes or so the gap was back to six and the game effectively over thanks to a run of five unanswered points. The future had arrived.
Scorers for Meath: F Ward (1-2, 2 frees); C O’Sullivan (0-1); J McEntee (0-1); P Kennelly (0-1).
Scorers for Dublin: C Costello (0-5, 4 frees); S Carthy (0-3, 2 frees); N Scully (0-2); N Walsh (0-2); D Campbell (0-1); E Lowndes (0-1).
Substitutes for Meath: P Kennelly for Dardis (24); H Rooney for Coogan (37); C Carton for Smyth (49)C O Griofa for Ward (54); C O’Brien for Daly (63).
Substitutes for Dublin: Shane Cunningham for Gaughan (39); D Gormley for Burke (43); D Campbell for Walsh (54); M Deegan for Scully (63).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).