Gaelic GamesThe Weekend That Was

It’s up to Meath to breathe some life back into a dead derby

A famed rivalry once existed between Dublin and Meath but former Royal legend Colm O’Rourke’s new-look side face a daunting assignment at Croke Park next weekend

Events from The Weekend That Was have left us with a quick turnaround to prepare for The Derby That Died. The Meath and Dublin rivalry – remember that? Anybody?

Dessie Farrell took a trip to Pearse Park last Sunday to watch Longford and Meath squabble over which lucky group of players would get the opportunity to play his Dublin side in a Leinster quarter-final.

Meath ran out comfortable winners in the howling wind, but the concession of 3-12 against Division Four opposition ensured they left Longford with no shortage of pressing remedial work to be done. As Farrell headed for the exits, one Meath supporter jested with the Dublin manager: “I’d say you are shivering after watching that, Dessie!”

Before Farrell could even raise a wry smile, another passing Meath fan interjected: “Aye, shivering from the wind is about all he is”.


Because Dublin and Meath hasn’t been a thing for years now. Actually, that’s not true, it just hasn’t been a thing for Dublin, little more than a box-ticking exercise. For Meath, it has become a relationship of embarrassment, a rivalry from another time, like a dusty floral upholstered curtain pelmet.

Meath have not beaten Dublin since the 2010 Leinster SFC semi-final, and in the eight championship meetings since, the Dubs have won by an average of 11.5 points per game.

In total – including National League and O’Byrne Cup/Shield – there have been 13 meetings between the counties since 2010 with Dublin winning on every occasion. The closest Meath came was a penalty shootout defeat in an O’Byrne Cup semi-final five years ago.

There isn’t a single player on the current Meath panel who knows what it feels like to beat Dublin at senior level. The rivalry survives only in memory. Granted, many of Colm O’Rourke’s squad are young and he can only hope the scars of the recent past do not continue to fester within the dressingroom.

From the Meath team which suffered a 13-point Leinster SFC semi-final defeat to Dublin two years ago (the fourth heaviest since 2010 – there were two 16-point losses and also a record 21-point defeat), only five started against Longford last Sunday.

From the Meath team which lost to Dublin in the league last March, only six started in the win over Longford. One of O’Rourke’s first utterances when he became Meath manager in July 2022 was to verbalise something many in the county had grown too sheepish to admit.

“Ultimately we have to beat Dublin,” O’Rourke told The Meath Chronicle. “That was the measurement of Meath when I was playing and that hasn’t changed.”

His comments were clearly aspirational and came with a big dollop of wishful thinking, but all politics are local and O’Rourke was merely preaching to his beleaguered electorate.

Prior to 2010, you have to go back to 2001 to find a championship victory for Meath over the Dubs. Dublin’s complete dominance has become a straitjacket for Meath football.

All the old chestnuts about Dublin’s advantages – finances, population and so on – are relevant in any discussion on the matter, but none should absolve Meath of its blame in disappearing from the stage for much of the last 25 years.

Next Sunday will be O’Rourke’s first championship meeting with Dublin since taking charge of Meath. But Farrell’s men handed the Royals a chastening 11-point defeat when the sides met in the league last March.

So, it was interesting that in the minutes after beating Longford last Sunday, O’Rourke was remaining bullish about the latest episode.

“That’s what defines you as a man, as a footballer, as a warrior in Meath, is to be able to go to Croke Park and beat Dublin, take them on toe to toe,” he said.

O’Rourke remained on message when he spoke to RTÉ's Seán Perry too, dipping into his Latin back catalogue – as he has become accustomed to doing so during some post-match interviews.

“For the last 20 years we’ve been going to Croke Park and getting hammered by Dublin, not just beaten,” said O’Rourke.

“We’ve been like a barking dog with them and not landing any blows. You Seán, as a classical scholar, would know ‘lupus non timet canem latrantem’ [A wolf is not afraid of a barking dog], so you could translate that and you’ll know how I feel about Dublin.

“On our side we’ve been doing a lot of barking but no biting when it came to Dublin for a long, long time, so I’m hoping we’ll do a bit better this time.”

Moments later, just metres down the same corridor, Longford manager Paddy Christie was asked what he thought of Meath’s chances going to Croke Park next Sunday.

“If I’m being honest, I think they will threaten up front but I can see difficulty in their backline in that the Dublin forwards are going to get a lot of ball and I’d imagine they’ll put a major squeeze on the kickout as well,” he said.

“I can just see problems there, if you go short you are going to get squeezed very intensely and if you go long you are kicking to the likes of Brian Fenton, so it’s going to be a difficult task for them.”

Christie proceeded to talk up O’Rourke’s presence on the sideline and Meath’s tradition, but Meath’s tradition hasn’t counted for anything against Dublin for years now. Few believe the Royals will even make a dent on Dublin next Sunday.

It’s a dead derby. But while the might of one county has killed it, the responsibility of bringing it back to life sits firmly on the shoulders of the other.