Jim Gavin’s Dublin hold all the aces but Meath look set to make make it a battle
Meath’s tradition will ensure they put it up to Dublin in Leinster football final
Cian O’Sullivan’s move to the Dublin midfield has proved, so far, to be hugely successful. Photograph: Inpho
There are times that you have to beware of the quiet ones. Dublin should bear that in mind. Although they come into tomorrow’s match with a swagger – which is what confidence and winning does to a team – there is an admirable stealth about Meath which suggests this Leinster football final won’t be the foregone conclusion that the hype would suggest.
Yes, I do think Dublin will win. Yes, I think the team has improved in a number of areas in Jim Gavin’s reign already compared to Pat Gilroy’s. However, I also like the approach of Meath under manager Mick O’Dowd who, in his first year, has brought a quiet resolve to the team and has set targets step-by-step. So far, without much hullabaloo, he and his team have managed to tick the boxes.
Dublin’s improvement as a team under Gavin are noticeable in a number of key areas: 1) Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs are even more accurate and are increasingly effective as launchpads for attacks; 2) the defence is working the ball out at real pace and, as a result, they are more difficult for opponents to close down; 3) there is greater mobility around the middle of the field, with Cian O’Sullivan’s move there proving, so far, to be hugely successful; and, 4) the forwards are moving, man and ball, as a unit with less selfishness and no over-dependency on one man.
Meath will come into this game with not many people giving them much of a chance against a Dublin team who hit the ground running in the league (capturing Division One) and who have if anything increased the momentum since the championship got under way. That is a mistake. Meath’s tradition will make them put it up to Dublin.
I’m sure Meath’s backroom team will have scrutinised the videos of Dublin’s facile win over Kildare. There is no way that they will be quite so naive in going man-on-man, as Kildare attempted.
If Meath are to give themselves a chance to win they need to do a number of things: 1 – close down Cluxton’s kick-outs to at least come away with 50/50 possession and, certainly, Brian Meade and Gillespie offer an aerial threat in that regard; 2 – the half-forward line will, to a man, have to put in a huge amount of work as defenders and track back to ensure that Dublin’s wing-backs Jack McCaffrey and James McCarthy aren’t allowed to go on those now trademark runs; 3 – Eamonn Wallace, who is probably the quickest man on the field, will have to come out the field and use his pace into the spaces created.