Dublin six-point Leinster semi-final win over Meath was their narrowest in the province since beating the same county by three points in the 2012 decider.
In the middle of all those landslide provincial wins over almost a decade sits the nine-point Leinster final defeat of Kildare in 2017.
On the face of it, it was another demolition, yet rewind to the 42nd minute of that game and a genuine opportunity to put serious heat on an all-conquering Dublin team presented itself to Kildare’s Daniel Flynn.
After a poor start, they’d outscored Dublin by 0-9 to 0-4 from the 21st minute to half-time and when Flynn found himself one-on-one with Stephen Cluxton, a chance to reduce the gap to just three presented itself. Flynn couldn’t convert though as Cluxton stood tall and flicked the shot away with a powerful right hand. Flynn later admitted “there was a big cloud over my head afterwards”,
acknowledging he “did beat myself up a good bit” over it.
Four years on, the chance to atone will present itself on Sunday for a special forward very much in form, fresh off dismantling Westmeath.
“I’ve marked him before, I actually marked him once with my club, Naomh Olaf, when we met his club in an intermediate Leinster quarter-final, I think,” said Dublin defender David Byrne who could mark Flynn. “I would have marked him a little bit against Kildare as well, at county level. So there’s a little bit of experience there but you never know what job you’re going to get come Sunday.
“Kildare are going really well, they are a great, physical, athletic team. They are shooting the lights out, Daniel Flynn was excellent the last day against Westmeath, Neil Flynn as well. I think they will have full confidence in themselves. Every time they go to play us, I am sure that they step out on the pitch with the belief that they can beat us and we need to respect that and match it.”
Whether that’s true, that Kildare always believed in the past that they could beat Dublin, is debatable. This time around, the chances are they will. Wexford made a mockery of the 25-point handicap laid on by bookmakers earlier this month, losing to the Dubs by just eight. Meath got the margin down to just three in stoppage time.
“Some years people might say Dublin are going to walk it, now they are saying other things but either way the focus is always going to be internal, on ourselves and in the dressing room,” insisted Byrne. “We try to avoid listening in to what people are saying because when you are going well you can get carried away with yourself because you are reading headlines about how great you are and if you are going poorly then you might start doubting yourself because you have headlines about how bad you are.”
Byrne acknowledges though that teams are running harder at Dublin now and reaping the benefits, as Wexford and Meath both did for spells.
“They definitely brought a bit of physicality, they didn’t sit off us,” said Byrne. “Sometimes in the past, maybe in the earlier rounds in Leinster, some teams might have decided to go away from their natural gameplan and play an extra defender or maybe two extra defenders. I don’t think Meath or Wexford decided to do that and to be fair they brought that physicality to us and they put it up to us.”
Brian Fenton and Cormac Costello both punched the air in delight and relief after scoring stoppage-time points against Meath. It had been a long time since Dublin celebrated like that in Leinster.
“I think we had one long play where Brian managed to put the ball over the bar at the end,” said Byrne. “We had a small lead so we were trying to keep the ball because if they have the ball, they have a chance to score. We managed to keep the ball for a long time and then, even better, Fento managed to hit it over the bar. I think it was probably the right play for where the game was at the time.
“Overall, we would be happy with our first-half performance, doing everything we wanted to, more or less, and then in the second half, we made a few mistakes. It was nothing I would put down to one big thing, just a couple of small things.”
- David Byrne was speaking at an AIG promotion to celebrate Dublin’s involvement in the 2021 Championships. See www.aig.ie/dubs