Meath offered proper test so Jim Gavin can now work on Dublin’s faults
Committing so many to offence leaves team open to counter-attack
Ciarán Kilkenny (left, with Pádraic Harnan of Meath), was impressive with the range and accuracy of his passing in the Leinster final. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
They can now examine their weaknesses. This game will equally have given the likes of Donegal, Mayo and Kerry plenty of information.
To push on and win an All-Ireland, Gavin’s Dublin blueprint will have to be altered slightly. I think that will happen now anyway.
Their flowing style of attack needs to be trimmed back to ensure Ger Brennan doesn’t get so exposed again.When Meath counter-attacked they found gaps down the centre that made Brennan look a lesser footballer than he is.
Gavin’s Dublin have bucked the trend of the blanket defence to win a National League and Leinster title. But committing so many players to offence leaves them open to a sucker punch.
It leaves them vulnerable to exactly how Donegal and Mayo gather the majority of their scores.
It must be a worry. At least they could turn to Darren Daly in the second half. Other managers will be able to pull clips from this game to show their fastest attackers: ‘Here’s the way through Dublin. Here’s how we beat them if we are clinical enough’.
Gavin will adapt
But I think Gavin will adapt. It doesn’t need massive surgery, just an extra body to cover, especially if an opposing full-forward line can maintain their workrate.
Meath were drained entering the final quarter of the game. They had put so much into matching Dublin in the first half the tank was empty when it mattered most.
Dublin powered away but if they come up against a player with the kick-passing accuracy of a Ciarán Kilkenny they will be in for trouble.
It must be so pleasing for Dublin supporters to see Kilkenny opt out of an AFL career and then commit to football over hurling. The accuracy and range of his passing is one of the best Gaelic football skills. He is replicating the link play of Alan Brogan to such an extent Dublin don’t miss one of their greatest servants.
They are still the best team I’ve seen this year but are by no means the finished product. The business end of the championship is coming now. If they are to win an All-Ireland it may be down to the use of their bench.
Kevin McManamon never fails to come in and drive them on but Denis Bastick also played a significant role yesterday. Michael Darragh Macauley and Cian O’Sullivan were struggling in the midfield contest.
This was due to a clear tactic by Meath manager Mick O’Dowd. They targeted midfield and it worked for a long time. This was done by denying Stephen Cluxton the outlet of short kick-outs. Brian Meade and Conor Gillespie went high and won the ball.
Edged it back
But Bastick edged it back Dublin’s way. Dean Rock also came in and scored a few points. Bryan Cullen didn’t make a major difference, but what an option to have for the last five minutes.
Kilkenny was their outstanding forward but Paul Mannion and Paul Flynn were hot on his heels. Mannion is such a balanced player and efficient score-taker, while Flynn is relentless in pursuit of any positive contribution.
He has also improved the footballing aspects of his game. A few years ago he was a superb athlete but now he is a superb footballer.
The best compliment that can be handed to Dublin’s attack is it has become the sum of the collective. We’ve just witnessed a comprehensive victory over Meath in a Leinster final without mentioning Bernard Brogan or Diarmuid Connolly.
Brogan had a quiet day, while Connolly was more subtle in his dealings.
O’Dowd can take plenty out of this defeat. They know what it takes to beat Dublin. It takes 70-plus minutes of non-stop competing. They simply lost to a superior force.
But Dublin are not the finished article. There are too many chinks of light in their defence when play breaks down further up the field.
Closing down Cluxton’s kick-out options suddenly brings their midfield duo under a spotlight. And the breaking ball belonged to Meath for large spells.
It’s about staying with Dublin because two things are certain with them: they will be unrelenting in the physical stakes and have the forwards to punish all comers.
And they have a deep well of character. That’s what we saw when Macauley grabbed the throw-in to start the second half. It was a ruthless reaction to the Meath threat.