Jim Gavin will stick with his experimental side for Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup final against Kildare after they won in injury-time for the second weekend running.
In front of a healthy 7,500 crowd in Páirc Tailteann, Dublin had gone nine points ahead with 27 minutes remaining through an Eoghan O’Gara goal but were reeled in by Meath in injury-time.
However, scores from substitute Philly Ryan and O’Gara sealed their victory at the death, similar to their performance in Portarlington.
Yesterday’s Dublin side featured just four starters from last September’s All-Ireland semi-final against Donegal but even just a week out from the defence of their Division 1 title away to Cork, Gavin intends showing loyalty to the likes of Dean Rock, who helped himself to eight points in Newbridge.
“As we know about this football team, there’s great resolve and great character and that was demonstrated there. Some players have joined the squad over the last month and for them to buy into that culture is a positive.
“We’re doing very little pitchwork at the moment. We’re using these games as part of their fitness work for the coming campaign so we’ll use more or less the same group of players for the next day.”
Gavin was delighted by the resilience showed by his players even if they did surrender such a comfortable lead having been four points up at the break, 0-9 to 0-5. “It’s great. Not that you try to create the scenarios but in that game the opposition came back really hard and it looked like the game was going away from us but the guys dug deep and put together some great phases of play and to come away from Navan with a win any day is a great day.”
Three minutes after the goal, Dublin had all but exhausted their bench as they began to experiment. Four Meath points without reply cut the gap to five and although Dean Rock responded with his third from play, the home side maintained their momentum with the next three scores, one of them Mickey Newman’s goal. Grabbing a diagonal ball from fellow sub Andrew Tormey, Newman turned Rory O’Carroll to slide the ball to the net.
A Rock free extended Dublin’s lead to two but then O’Rourke took over, converting a 45 before his 50 metre free crept over to level matters in injury-time. Dublin, though, kept their heads and following a composed build-up Ryan split the posts. O’Gara added a point for good measure and the Meath support was silenced. But for O’Rourke in the first half when he made two point blank saves from O’Gara, Meath could have found the deficit too much. Graham Reilly was their only forward to score from play in the half as they went 13 and then 18 minute periods without raising a flag.
“I was delighted with the second half,” said Mick O’Dowd, who admitted his inexperienced team were nervous. “We just opened out the shoulders and went at it, which we probably didn’t do in the first half. There was some heroic defending going on. We’ve a bit of work to do in advance of the league, but we started a team there that had seven fellas not involved in last year’s championship squad, so what we’re doing is building a base of players that can compete at that level.”
Gavin confirmed he has not yet spoken to Alan Brogan about his inter-county future. Bernard Brogan had said last week the pair were set for talks. James McCarthy will soon return to the panel having had surgery on a troublesome groin injury.
Scorers for Meath: M Newman (1-1); S Tobin (frees), P O’Rourke (2 45s, 1f) (0-3 each); B Menton, G Reilly (0-2 each); J Queeney, M Burke (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dublin: D Rock (0-8, 4 frees, 1 45); E O’Gara (1-2); S Carthy (0-2); E Ó Conghaile, K McManamon, P Ryan (0-1 each).
MEATH: P O’Rourke; D Dalton, C McGill, D Tobin; N Judge, D Keogan, B Menton; H Rooney, A Flanagan; J Wallace, S Bray, G Reilly; S Tobin, J Queeney, R O’Dowd.
Subs for Meath: M Burke for D Dalton (13); A Tormey for R O’Dowd, C McConnell for N Judge (both h-t); M Newman for J Queeney (53); D Carroll for S Tobin (57); D Bray for S Bray (65).
DUBLIN: L Molloy; E Culligan; R O’Carroll, J Cooper; N Devereux, J Small, D Daly; D Bastick, S Carthy; T Brady, D Rock, E Ó Conghaile; C Costello, E O’Gara, K McManamon.
Subs for Dublin: MD Macauley for D Bastick, M Fitzsimons for D Daly (both h-t); J McCaffrey for S Carthy (42); P Ryan for C Costello (46); S Lowndes for T Brady (49).
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow)