Not even Meath can hold back Dublin’s blue tide
Jim Gavin happy with the result but felt performance could have been better
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton prepares to make his acceptance speech.
The blue tide just keeps washing in, eroding all before it. A week after the Dublin hurlers secured the capital’s first Leinster title since 1961, the footballers completed the provincial double for the first time since 1942. Before you ask, they’ve never done the All-Ireland double. Best to get that one out of the way while the pot is starting to bubble and anything seems possible.
They had just a little trouble shifting Meath from their path in front of a crowd of 54,485 at Croke Park yesterday. Though they came home as comfortable 2-15 to 0-14 winners in the end, it took them an age to get into any sort of flow and they even had to cope with the relative indignity of going in behind at half-time for the first time this year. They did so impressively enough, outscoring Meath to the tune of 1-11 to 0-5 in the second half. But hidden in plain sight were just enough quirks and quibbles to delay any coronation a while longer.
“I’m happy with the result,” said Jim Gavin afterwards. “But the performance, no. . . But we were up against a very good side. Meath enjoy the physical battle and they put it up to the Dublin players so there was very little space for the guys to work in. The guys showed great heart to keep at it. They held their discipline and showed great heart and resolve so I’m very happy with that.”
In sweeping up their eighth Leinster in nine years, Dublin left just enough litter behind to make you wonder at the strength of their bristles. They didn’t score from play for the last 20 minutes of the first half. and coughed up five decent goal chances.
The supply line of ball from Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs was routinely interrupted by a diligent Meath forward unit and their midfield was wholly ineffectual until the introduction of Denis Bastick off the bench. Whatever emissaries Kerry, Donegal and Mayo had in the crowd will have seen enough holes in the fence to presume a way through if is needed.
Especially encouraging was the fact that when the temperature was highest, it was Gavin’s younger players who didn’t melt. There isn’t an All-Ireland medal to speak of between Ciarán Kilkenny, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey but they were the ones who forced the issue for Dublin the further the game went. Of the actual All-Ireland winners in Gavin’s side, only Bastick, Cluxton and Paul Flynn stood out.
Mannion and Kilkenny were the true shining lights though, scoring 1-7 between them and never giving the Meath defence a minute’s peace. It was Kilkenny’s best display in a Dublin jersey yet, 70 minutes of thoughtful quarter-backing around the Dublin half-forward line.
Inside him Mannion sparkled again, never more than when he steered home his goal.
Little to console
For Meath, there was plenty to build on and yet little to console. Nothing in a seven-point defeat to Dublin will ever sit right with them, although Mick O’Dowd did concede afterwards that seeing how the other half live will do his young players no harm.
“I’m devastated,” he said. “We didn’t come here to get a heartening display. We came here to get a Leinster title. We didn’t do it. Our first-half showed what we wanted to do. Our second-half didn’t
“We have to get used to performing against teams the calibre of Dublin. That is the first time we have done it this year but we were really looking forward to that challenge. They have been playing teams of a similar standard to themselves all this year. We have just been meeting them today. That is our first step up to that standard.”