The Leinster Senior Football Championship has long been crying ‘stop’ and Dublin have long since stopped listening. This wasn’t quite a pulverisation, but unquestionably another endorsement of capital might.
It’s a record ninth provincial title in a row for Dublin, Meath’s dismal tally was the worst put up against them in this era of dominance. Not that it was Dublin’s highest score in a Leinster final, not by a long shot, but the margin was the joint second-biggest alongside the 16 points that separated them from Meath five years ago.
Yesterday’s win brought the difference between Dublin and the rest in Leinster finals since 2011 to exactly 100 points, a winning average of over 11 points a game. It was the 21st straight victory in Leinster for Jim Gavin, 27 including the 100% runs under Pat Gilroy in 2011 and ’12.
Just like Leinster CEO Michael Reynolds’ insistence before the game that the senior football championship wasn’t in danger, provincial chairman Jim Bolger’s praise of Meath afterwards for fighting until the end came across as misguided. What Dublin are doing is incredible, produced by much more than just a combination of cash and population, but the argument made by Reynolds that others have to step up to their plate goes ventures beyond insulting.
Meath were the best that the rest of Leinster offered this year. And for the first 55 minutes of football here, they restricted the All-Ireland champions to nine points, only to leave their scoring boots back in Dunganny. One point for 50 minutes of action including the five additional ones at the end of the first half, they seemed to have borrowed too much for one aspect of their game to pay for the other, and suffered the consequences.
The psychological damage inflicted was blatantly obvious. Six wides, two posts hit, and two shots short in the first half — when that waywardness continued playing into the Hill in the second half, shoulders began to drop. Mickey Newman’s free in the 45th minute brought them to within five points of Dublin, but Gavin had yet to call in his reserves. By the time Dean Rock came in for Brian Howard, Dublin were 0-10 to 0-3 ahead.
Rock, who had missed both the wins over Louth and Kildare, was out to play catch-up and duly did, finishing as Dublin’s top scorer having only come on in the 52nd minute. Three of his four points were from play, all dispatched expertly, and he was on hand to provide the last ball for Con O’Callaghan to find the Meath goal in the 68th minute.
By the time he skewed a shot wide in additional time, Meath were hoping that the ground was going to open up and swallow them whole.
There had been some solid contributions early on from Conor McGill and Shane Gallagher, while Donal Keogan’s tagging of Ciarán Kilkenny was excellent — but the ball was coming back at them far too quickly the further the game progressed.
A surreal first half concluded with Dublin leading 0-5 to 0-1, but they had failed to score for the final 15 minutes of action. It took them until the 12th minute to score too and Paul Mannion also saw his penalty come back off the post in the 29th minute after McGill had impeded O’Callaghan.
Afterwards, it was understandable Andy McEntee wasn’t in the mood to discuss the Leinster SFC: “We’re after getting a bit of a drubbing there, so I don’t think it’s the time for me to start pontificating about Leinster football or the state of football.”
He couldn’t complain about the result, but was upset with how Ben Brennan was injured off the ball and the incident went unpunished, as well as the yellow card count — six for Meath, none for Dublin.
“When you are getting beaten like that, everyone gets frustrated. I don’t know what the card count was in the end. Six-zero, was it? Ah, but Dublin aren’t physical so that doesn’t matter. Look, I didn’t see it (Brennan incident), but certainly some of the people around me seemed to see it and it wasn’t picked up.”
At a Leinster SFC launch a few years back, Gavin mentioned how much of a supporter he was of east coast football. He was referencing the likes of Meath, but Dublin are all-consuming now. The coast is theirs, the province is theirs, their Pale’s reach extends far beyond what it had been in the Middle Ages.
In the Blue Wave document back in 2011, Dublin revealed they were looking for provincial status in terms of administrative status and financing. They continue to seek that, but as far as their senior football objectives go, they continue to exceed expectations.
D. Rock (0-4, 1 free); C. Costello (0-3, 2 frees, 0-1 45); C. O’Callaghan (1-0); P. Mannion (0-3); J. McCaffrey (0-2); C. Kilkenny, B. Howard, P. McMahon, B. Fenton. P. Andrews (0-1 each).
M. Newman (0-3, 1 free); B. Menton (0-1).
S. Cluxton (c); P. McMahon, M. Fitzsimons, J. McCaffrey; D. Byrne, C. O’Sullivan, J. Small; B. Fenton, J. McCarthy; N. Scully, C. Kilkenny, B. Howard; C. Costello, P. Mannion, C. O’Callaghan.
M.D. Macauley for J. McCarthy (inj 32); D. Rock for B. Howard (inj 52); K. McManamon for C. Costello (59); P. Small for C. Kilkenny (62); P. Andrews for P. Small (inj 65); R. O’Carroll for J. McCaffrey (68).
A. Colgan; C. McGill, S. Lavin, S Gallagher; J. McEntee, D. Keogan (j-c), R. Ryan; B. Menton (j-c), S. McEntee; C. O’Sullivan, B. McMahon, G. Reilly; B. Brennan, J. Conlon, M. Newman.
S. Tobin for B. Brennan (39); E. Devine for G. Reilly (inj 40); T. O’Reilly for J Conlon (54); B. Dardis for S. McEntee (59); S. Curran for S. Gallagher, T, McGovern for B. McMahon (both 66).
D. Keogan (70+4, not replaced).
S. Hurson (Tyrone).
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Mike Quirke reviews the GAA weekend with Oisín McConville, Donncha O'Connor and Tony Leen.