LEINSTER SFC FINAL:
Dublin 3-20 Meath 1-10
Last month, Joe Sheridan suggested Meath were 10 years behind Dublin in terms of development.
Their performance yesterday was light years in the wake of the All-Ireland champions.
With nine minutes of normal time remaining, the scoreline read 3-19 to 0-7, representing a distance of 21 points between the teams thanks to Eoghan O’Gara’s well-placed goal.
A Michael Newman goal followed by three points provided Meath with a modicum of closeness to the champions that they hardly deserved.
In this, their third Leinster final meeting with Dublin in as many years, they have got progressively worse. Three-point losers in 2012, seven points in deficit last year, there were plenty of positives to glean from both games. But here? Go fish and then fish some more.
Kevin Reilly was a bulwark in defence in the first half, which said plenty about him given he wasn’t fully fit and in that context little about most of his team-mates.
Dublin’s conversion rate wasn’t much to write home about, but then they created so many scoring opportunities it hardly mattered that it worked out about one score from every two put together.
It was their work-rate that was the most redeeming characteristic of their fourth provincial crown in a row, their ninth in 10 years.
Meath’s defenders struggled to release the ball from their half of the field with any great urgency, such was the pressure they were putunder. Diarmuid Connolly, although he was on plenty of ball, and Paul Mannion were disappointing but it didn’t matter — the graft put in by Dublin when they were not in possession was marvellous.
Kevin McManamon’s return of 1-5 will surely see him handed a starting jersey next month while Michael Fitzsimons was excellent in putting the mockers on Stephen Bray.
The portents for Meath looked bleak for Dublin as early as the 19th minute, when Bernard Brogan beat his brother Alan to find the net. Both had been alert to Bernard’s blocked shot after McManamon had hit the post with a point effort. The hard yards had been made when Michael Darragh Macauley beat Andrew Tormey for possession.
The score pushed Dublin six ahead, although Meath were unfortunate to be stopped in their tracks when Padraig Hughes chose not to allow advantage after Dalton McDonagh had been fouled. The ball found the net but they had to make do with a Mickey Newman free.
Dublin came strong again, scoring four points without reply in the space of four minutes to lead 1-12 to 0-6 at half-time. Among them were more goal chances, McManamon smashing the bar and Alan Brogan having a shot snuffed out.
Worse followed for Meath in the 39th minute when McManamon rounded Padraic Harnan and extended Dublin’s advantage to 12.
Bernard Brogan, Jack McCaffrey and Paul Flynn send over points in the wake of it and Meath were truly beaten.
McManamon had another goal chance in the 56th minute but still managed a point and, as is almost customary now, Dublin substitutes Dean Rock and Cormac Costello posted scores.
Another replacement, O’Gara, drilled a low shot to the net and Meath’s mortification was sealed.
Mick O’Dowd spoke of some of his players being “outstanding in my book” and the three late changes to the Dublin team being a form of respect to Meath.
Goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke mentioned the number they had done on them too.
“It just showed the work that Dublin had done on us. They were prepared physically and mentally, they were tuned in to give their best performance of the summer so far and, when they do that, they’re a formidable opponent.
“They took scores when they were on and got into a bit of a lead. Then the first goal came and they just seemed to kick on.”
Respect has different ways of manifesting itself and Dublin expected more of their rivals. Ever the perfectionist, Paul Flynn expected more of his own team in the final quarter.
“The last 15 minutes, we probably took the foot off the gas a bit. We were wasteful a well. So when the intensity dropped, we made a few errors.
“But we were far enough ahead then. Maybe we just took our eye off the ball a bit, but we were obviously expecting a big battle.”
There’ll be bigger for Dublin next month and likely beyond but on this evidence they look more than braced for them.
Scorers for Dublin: B Brogan (1-6, 0-4fs), K McManamon (1-5), E O’Gara (1-1), D Connolly, C O’Sullivan, S Cluxton (45), A Brogan, J McCaffrey, P Flynn, D Rock, C Costello (0-1 each).
Scorers for Meath: M Newman (1-2, 1f), S O’Rourke (2fs), S Bray, A Tormey (0-2 each), D Carroll, D Bray (0-1 each).
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; R O’Carroll, M Fitzsimons, P McMahon; J McCarthy, N Devereux, J McCaffrey; MD Macauley, C O’Sullivan; P Flynn, K McManamon, D Connolly; A Brogan, P Mannion, B Brogan.
Subs for Dublin: C Costello for P Mannion (ht), D Rock for D Connolly (42), E O’Gara for A Brogan (50), D Daly for N Devereux, D Bastick for MD Macauley (both 59), T Brady for C O’Sullivan (69).
MEATH: P O’Rourke; D Keogan, K Reilly, P Harnan; D Tobin, E Harrington, B Menton; S O’Rourke, A Tormey; B McMahon, D McDonagh, D Carroll; G Reilly, S Brady, M Newman.
Subs for Meath: J Wallace for G Reilly (31), M Burke for D Carroll (ht), D Bray for D McDonagh, B Meade for S O’Rourke (both 46), J McEntee for B McMahon (blood, 53), M O’Sullivan for B Menton (53), P Gilsenan for D Tobin (70+1).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).
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