Leinster SFC final
Dublin v Meath
Sunday: Croke Park, 2pm
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)
Tradition. It’s a word that can be devalued and even sneered at sometimes, but it will count for something when Meath attempt to release Leinster from Dublin’s stranglehold in next Sunday’s Leinster final, according to Jim Gavin.
The Dublin manager is well-versed in the history.
Gavin marked Meath legends in his day — men such as Colm Coyle, Robbie O’Malley and Graham Geraghty. He faced the Royals as the man in charge of the Dublin U21s and he took them down as senior boss last year.
Always the best of enemies, there is the suggestion that the rivalry’s sharper edges have been curbed by Dublin’s recent dominance and Meath’s struggles and yet, even with that, the games have been nip and tuck of late.
Only three points separated them in the 2012 provincial decider and, though the gap was seven last year, there is the unavoidable sense of a Meath team genetically programmed to put it up to the Dubs regardless of their own circumstances.
“The tradition is there,” said Gavin. “That’s probably one thing. It doesn’t just go back five years. It goes back many, many years. We’re on each other’s border so there is that local derby. A lot of Meath people live in Dublin and vice-versa. There is that closeness.
Gavin, without a hint of irony, describes some of the opponents from his own days as “pure gentlemen”, yet the mutual respect is obvious and the five-goal salvo Meath claimed in beating Dublin in 2010 is reason enough to be wary. Failure to gain promotion from Division 2 this year was a disappointment, but most of the chords struck by Mick O’Dowd as Meath manager have been in tune and their summer form has made for a particularly sweet chorus.
“Yeah, they’ve been impressive in both games — 9-29 is an impressive return in anybody’s book. They’ve been very impressive, playing traditional Meath football. Very solid in defence, very mobile in their half-back, midfield, half-forward line area.
“They have multiple options up front, they’ve lots of pace and they can and have punished teams, both Carlow and Kildare, and saw out both games in a very professional manner.
“They had a very good run in the National League. It’s going to be a traditional Dublin/Meath game. They’re always good, honest, hard games of football. Both teams will really go hard at it, as we saw last year. So, either team can win this game.”
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