So Dublin recorded a 16-point thumping of their neighbouring rivals on a lovely sunny afternoon in Croke Park before the best attendance of the season, 62,660, and strode into next month's All-Ireland quarter-finals. What could possibly go wrong?
Perhaps another biting allegation – the third in 15 months – made against the team, this time by Meath manager Mick O'Dowd.
Having conducted a dispassionate analysis of his team's 16-point defeat, O'Dowd left the media conference but shortly afterwards returned saying he wanted to report an allegation that one of his players, Mickey Burke, had been bitten.
“I’ve just come back to the dressing-room after speaking to you,” said O’Dowd, “and I see the doctor dealing with his finger, and he (the doctor) has gone to the Dublin dressing-room to talk to the Dublin doctor, because there’s a protocol to deal with in terms of a bite, in terms of blood transferring from one person to another.”
He added that he was “extremely disappointed” by the incident.
The allegation is believed to have arisen during the course of a brawl that took place that took place late in the match and involving a number of players. After lengthy consultation with his linesmen, referee Pádraig Hughes of Armagh issued yellow cards to Meath players Paddy O’Rourke and Mickey Burke and Dublin’s Eoghan O’Gara.
When asked about the situation at his media conference Dublin manager
said that he was unaware of the allegation. It will be up to the GAA’s Central
Competitions Control Committee
to decide on the conduct of any investigation.
This is the third time that Dublin have been at the centre of such allegations during Gavin’s time as manager. In April 2013, Kevin O’Brien was investigated by the CCCC, which recommended a three-match suspension.
Having exercised his right to a hearing, O'Brien was cleared as the infraction was deemed unproven by the Central Hearings Committee after Donegal player Patrick McBrearty declined to attend the hearing.
Last January Jason Whelan was suspended for eight months – match bans not becoming universal until this year's annual congress – after accepting a recommended suspension from the Leinster Council CCC following an incident in this year's O'Byrne Cup match against DCU.
There had been a suggestion immediately after the match that Dublin would issue a statement but county CEO John Costello denied this last night, saying there were no plans to comment on the matter.
Whereas yesterday’s latest allegation casts a pall over the team with the uncertainty of a potential investigation and any disciplinary follow-up, Gavin was glad to focus on the positive, first that the performance had represented a big improvement on the other two matches in the Leinster championship.
“It certainly was. I’d agree with that. We certainly had to step it up. We knew the challenge that Meath would pose. As I’ve mentioned Dublin Meath games are traditionally really intense encounters.
“We’ve seen how Meath can get goal chances and create them against Carlow and Kildare so we knew if we didn’t bring an intensity to the game that they would have exploited us in the back line. I thought our back division played very well, very tight. . . ”
He digressed from praising the collective to answer questions on two of the outstanding displays: Kevin McManamon who scored 1-5 from play and Michael Fitzsimons who stepped in for the injured Jonny Cooper and kept Meath captain and danger man Stephen Bray on a tight leash.
“Michael Fitzsimons is playing very well for us and Jonny Cooper had a soft tissue injury, wasn’t available for selection . . . Mick did a very good job today.”
In respect of McManamon, the old instincts kicked in.
“He played well, but I think overall the forward division, those who started and those who finished, I think it was a complete performance and they worked hard for each other and they displayed a good attitude throughout the game so we are very happy in that regard.
Meath manager Mick O’Dowd looked crestfallen and baffled by his team’s collapse.
A year previously they had been very competitive in the Leinster final and he had to acknowledge that the gap between the counties appeared to have widened.
“Look, there’s a gap in terms of that physicality and intensity that you have to be comfortable playing at, as a unit. I think some Meath players gave outstanding displays but as a collective, Dublin had a higher standard . . .
“I’d say there might have been an element of surprise in our performance last year, which wasn’t there this year. I think they are probably a step on from last year looking at them. They were quite clinical.
“I know there were a couple more chances they could have taken. We weren’t as clinical as we needed to be. . .”