For a long time yesterday afternoon it looked as if Meath might just address the one gaping hole in a summer filled almost to the brim with sporting drama.
After 43 minutes of this Leinster final, Michael Newman sold a pair of outrageous dummies before clipping a point over the bar and down the throat of Hill 16 to level the tie and elevate the dizzying prospect of a result that would bring a slumbering football championship to life.
It wasn’t to be, but Meath have at least left evidence of their passing on a Dublin side that had reduced the Leinster championship to recessionary status this past decade or so. The irony is that the Dubs will be all the better for it come August’s Bank Holiday weekend.
“Some of the things written about Meath during the week from the media left me at a loss really to see how that was written about a team and a county with such tradition,” said Dublin manager Jim Gavin.
“I thought they showed great heart going down to Aughrim to get a result against Wicklow and they fought against Wexford to get a result. We knew it was going to be hard. Other people had a different perspective on it.”
Gavin’s protestations on Meath’s behalf were sprinkled liberally throughout the post-match interview and used at times to explain some of his side’s failings, but captain Stephen Cluxton pointed the finger homewards.
The Dublin goalkeeper’s kick-outs have been an integral weapon in Dublin’s arsenal for years now, but Meath fished profitably from his efforts yesterday whether the ball was delivered wide or down the middle.
“I think we were a bit lethargic ourselves and I made a few errors myself so that was it,” he explained. “Maybe they were tired or the sun was taking it out of them.”
Whatever the reasons for such lethargy, Dublin didn’t panic when the day refused to bend to their will. There were no words of warning at half time or references to a scoreboard that showed them trailing for the first time this summer. No, it was business as usual.
Dublin stuck to their guns. They trusted in their blueprint, in their ability both individual and collective, and a bench that unleashes pace and unquestionable talent on sides like Meath.
“There were a lot of hard questions asked of the team,” said Gavin. “Probably the first time since we played in the National League final. And that’s twice they responded. I’m happy in that regard.”
Their reward was an eighth Leinster senior title in nine years but such familiarity with the Delaney Cup has drained much of its lustre for this panel of players, many of whom didn’t even bother to climb the Hogan Stand steps to raise the trophy aloft, although Gavin defended its worth.
“It’s one of the unique occasions in our games and I think we would be at a loss as an association if we let that go.
“But beyond that ... that is kind of phase one done.”
No doubt this football championship will spring to life sooner or later.
The suspicion is that Dublin will be present when the kiss of life is finally imparted while the progression of Anthony Daly‘s hurlers keeps alive the possibility of a truly memorable ending to a summer that even at this early stage owes us little more.
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