Farrell's Dublin complete final task and deliver on their huge potential
ALL-IRELAND MFC FINAL: Dublin 0-14 Meath 1-5:KILLING MEATH softly. Without much of a fuss, Dublin found a way to put ball after ball over the bar when it really mattered. Fourteen white flags had to suffice because there was no clear route to goal. These Royal teenagers refused to allow the Leinster final trimming to be repeated.
So Dublin had to do it from distance, with subtlety. Barring the penalty Fiachra Ward buried 12 minutes into the second-half that reduced arrears to a single point, Dublin controlled this contest.
Finally, after last year’s shock collapse against Tipperary, they have captured the Tom Markham Cup for a record 11th time. That statistic, equalling Kerry, has been 28 years in the making, since way back when big Jim Stynes was a minor.
Expecting the Meath tactics – a 14-man defence with an attempt at Donegal style counter-attacking – Dublin countered with a horseshoe defence. The attacker was corralled into the pen, harassed and dispossessed with the likes of Ross McGowan or ultra-solid fullback David Byrne striding clear.
Eric Lowndes deserves a special mention for a smooth, assured performance. He bravely embraced an awful belt from Meath’s Patrick Kennelly late on that will have minor hurling manager Shay Boland worried.
On reflection, the Meath approach was little more than a stopgap because you need to be in front to defend a lead.
It so easily could have been different. With a minute and change on the clock, Barry Dardis’s clever hand pass gave Fiachra Ward a sight of goal but Lorcan Molloy sprung from his line to block the shot with his feet.
Ward did post a free seconds later but Dublin responded with points from Niall Walsh, Cormac Costello and a brilliant, on the run, curling effort from Lowndes.
All these scores came from turnover ball deep in Dublin territory. And away they went.
It could have got really ugly for Meath on 16 minutes but Shane Carthy had to be satisfied with a fisted point after his belting strike for goal was blocked.
Still, Dublin had constructed a comfortable 0-5 to 0-2 lead.
James McEntee was acting as the Meath sweeper and while this proved effective, it was the transfer of possession at pace down field that was proving tricky. Pádraic Harnan and Ward were ever willing carriers into the blue wave.
The difference, as so often this season, was Costello. He landed a 40-metre effort on 28 minutes that knocked the wind out of the Meath resistance.
This was followed by a pointed free to open up a five-point gulf.
He killed them softly, did Costello. From distance.
You feared for Meath, such was Dublin’s such ferocity after the interval, and having kicked three wides in as many minutes, Costello’s vision eventually engineered a score for Niall Scully.
Points from Ward and impact sub Patrick Kennelly for Meath made it mildly interesting but something urgent was required to stop the procession.
Mercifully, it came when Cillian O’Sullivan’s clever ball across the Dublin goalmouth saw two blue shirts collide mid-air, presenting Harnan with a goal chance. He passed it to Kennelly in a better position and Walsh was adjudged to have clipped his leg in backswing. Ward rolled the penalty past Molloy.