Prior to last night’s Leinster SFC decider, there were many pundits predicting Meath wouldn’t keep it kicked out to Dublin.
They were wrong very wrong.
Meath repeatedly kicked the ball out to Dublin, time and time again, in fact, most of the time they didn’t kick it out to the Dubs they kicked it over the sideline.
Look at the scoreline, throw in a few wides and that is an awful lot of kicking out from Mark Brennan.
It would be unfair to blame the O’Mahonys netminder though as allowing for the fact his floated restarts allowed those in blue attack them with venom his teammates abdicated their basic responsibility of attacking the broken ball.
In fact as a unit Meath, especially defensively didn’t do a whole lot right at all.
The move for the winners first goal started when Con O’Callaghan fielded a Stephen Cluxton kick out unopposed his marker Conor McGill wasn’t even in the picture that glowed from the TV screen, grannies have marked bingo cards better.
Could things have turned out differently had Meath finished an opening seconds move to the net?
In the previews of the game one important fact was overlooked, it was generally accepted that Meath have as a team improved over the last twelve months, what people neg;ected to see was so have Dublin.
At the same time it should be noted that even in a defeat as heavy as this one a player or two on the losing side can be singled out as having performed well, that was categorically not the case last night.
There will be calls for Andy McEntee’s head in the wake of this embarrassment, the feeling here is they would be misplaced, as the performance was not through lack of preparation and planning but rather a shameful dropping of the heads and lack of fight associated with the Meath shirt from the moment the first goal went in.
It took Meath 63 minutes to better their tally of four points from last year’s Leinster final. Dublin swallowed them up at the back and completely shut down the Meath forward line that had scored 12 goals in the previous two games.
They eventually finished with 0-9, though the game was probably over as a contest after Dean Rock’s eight minute goal.
Dublin almost look like a better side without the crowd because their on-field communication is so good. Captain Stephen Cluxton was a vocal presence, roaring ‘kick-out, kick-out’ to his team-mates every time they were about to get a shot away.
The Sky Blues almost look insulted by the pre-match talk that Meath would run them close.
The Royals kicked the first score of the game and were still level by the seventh minute when they pressed high on a Dublin kick-out. Cluxton bombed his kick-out down the middle on top of Con O’Callaghan, who played mostly at centre-forward.
Dublin clearly expected a heavy Meath press and they dragged bodies into their own half, leaving oceans of space on either side of O’Callaghan. It was the first of four kick-outs he fetched in the game.
Niall Scully raced past the Cuala man and forwarded it onto Brian Fenton. Dean Rock peeled off to the back post and received the pass for a simple finish that has become Dublin’s hallmark.
By the interval, Dublin’s all-time leading scorer had 1-5 on the board after a few sweetly struck placed balls. He finished the game with 1-7. Sean Bugler grabbed his second goal in as many games, fisting in a chance he fashioned himself after playing a one-two with Kilkenny.
The game was practically over at that stage. Niall Scully, Kilkenny, and O’Callaghan all added points to leave Dublin in an unassailable 2-12 to 0-2 half-time lead.
They lost Jonny Cooper to a foot injury before the start of the second-half, but the introduction of Brian Howard hardly weakened Dublin. By the 43rd minute, two of Meath’s full-back line had been replaced, indicating their struggles against the Dublin attack.
John Small broke forward for a point and O’Callaghan added another. Kilkenny had an opportunity to go for goal when Fenton slipped him through, but he showed mercy on Meath and popped it over.
The Castleknock man mainly played at full-forward and finished with 0-4, adding to the 1-9 he clipped in the previous two outings.
Cluxton made a good save to deny Wallace but Dublin counter-attacked immediately.
Cormac Costello, only off the bench minutes earlier, was speeding through for a certain goal chance when he was downed by Ronan Jones. The offender shipped a black card and Meath were down to 14 men for the remaining 10 minutes of normal time.
Meath scored more in the last 10 minutes than they did in the previous as subs Joey Wallace and Jason Scully pulled back points and Jordan Morris finished with 0-3 to his name. Costello’s red card handed out for sheer stupidity, and a fisted goal from Niall Scully arrived in the closing stages as the game petered out.
That was the game, the result had been decided long before.
Dublin – Stephen Cluxton; Eoin Murchan, Michael Fitzsimons, David Byrne; Jonny Cooper, John Small (0-1), Robbie McDaid; James McCarthy, Brian Fenton; Niall Scully (1-1), Ciaran Kilkenny (0-4), Sean Bugler (1-2); Paddy Small (0-3, 2f), Con O’Callaghan (0-2), Dean Rock (1-7, 5f, 1 ‘45’). Subs: Brian Howard for Cooper (HT), Paul Mannion (0-1, 1f) for Small (42mins), Eric Lowndes for J Small (53), Cormac Costello for O’Callaghan (59), Kevin McManamon for Kilkenny (65).
Meath – Marcus Brennan; Ronan Ryan, Conor McGill, David Toner; Seamus Lavin, Donal Keogan, Mathew Costello; Bryan Menton (0-1), Ronan Jones; Bryan McMahon, Cillian O’Sullivan (0-1), Shane McEntee; Thomas O’Reilly (0-1, 1f), Shane Walsh, Jordan Morris (0-4, 1f). Subs: Cathal Hickey for Toner (44mins), Eoin Harkin for McGill (44), Ethan Devine for Costello (46), Jason Scully (0-1) for McMahon (52), Joey Wallace (0-1) for O’Reilly (53).
Ref: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary