Dublin 1-27 Meath 1-14
Dublin showed up and delivered. Meath didn’t do either. For all of the old footballing history between these two, the least you’d expect from Meath would be that they would bring a physical edge to the battle, to have an appetite for it.
Not a bit of it. This Leinster Championship semi-final was done and dusted by half-time as Dublin - who have kicked on with almighty intent since the travails of the league - played with authority, athleticism and some wonderful score-taking that had them out of sight long before Meath's day got even worse with two late red cards that only served to rub salt into wounds on a game mostly to forget for them.
In contrast, Dublin - once again, in following on from a dominant display in their provincial opening win over Wexford - were very much in control, ruthlessly so in delivering a performance that showcased speed and strength, patience in shot-selection and precision when it ultimately came to the shot-taking.
In over 70 minutes of play, Dublin had just three wides in a display of finishing that wasn't just confined to the forwards, with team captain James McCarthy leading by example with two effortlessly executed long-range points.
The ifs didn't even extend to buts for Meath. Sure, there was an early goal chance for Jordan Morris, one which flashed across Evan Comerford's line to be signalled wide, but their lack of any physicality from the start was a head-scratcher. Was it that Dublin were just too quick and too strong in all departments? Or has some internal mental scarring from years of successive defeats at Dublin's hands a part to play too?
“We have suffered at Dublin’s hands for the last, not just my tenure but before that, and there has been a lot of guys there for a lot of those defeats, so I guess it’s a possibility,” accepted Meath manager Andy McEntee of mental scarring, with the task now of recovering in time for the All-Ireland qualifiers.
Dublin’s league form has been thrown out the window. Instead, their onwards momentum in the championship has brought with it renewed vigour and a style of play, especially in the first-half when all of the damage was inflicted on their hapless opponents, of pace and skill that had a new face in the middle of it all.
Lorcan O'Dell performed like a clone of his clubmate Niall Scully and had an act and part in much of Dublin's movement, not only covering ground like a Duracell bunny but helping himself to two points as well as assisting in others. "Obviously we're happy with him. It is a difficult one for a young player to come in on a day like that and, then, to play well is even more challenging in some ways because these things can come back to bite you.
"Lorcan's just keeping his head down and seeing what the next day brings," said Dublin manager Dessie Farrell of finding another card to add to his playing hand.
The match itself was one-way traffic through a first half that started with Tom Lahiff starting the flow of Dublin points. His right-footed kick was followed by Ciarán Kilkenny cutting in off the left wing and pointing and then Cormac Costelloe pointing with his right foot and barely a minute later with one off his left and then O'Dell getting in on the act.
Five points to zero before some of the 38,081 had warmed their seats and the game already looked as good as finished.
Dublin trotted into the tunnel for the half-time break with a lead of 15 points, 1-17 to 0-5. The goal had come from the penalty spot - coolly blasted home by Dean Rock, after O’Callaghan had been fouled when bearing down on goal - and, although Meath reshuffled with three substitutes for the second half and were on the pitch for a number of minutes before Dublin returned, it was with the sense that their cause was a lost one.
If you want to be semantic about it, Meath won the second half, with a late Morris penalty - after Michael Fitzsimons was black carded - in additional time which brought a rare roar from those Meath supporters who had stayed to the death.
Morris didn't have long to savour anything of it, however. Just a minute later he was being dispatched with a red card after shoving Lee Gannon in the chest. His marching orders came just three minutes after Jack Flynn had also had a red card flashed in his face by referee Derek O'Mahoney for a high challenge on Jonny Cooper.
Meath may well appeal one or other of the dismissals, maybe both.
“I was very surprised at both of them, to be truthful,” said McEntee, adding: “Jack Flynn’s. I think Cooper got the ball and turned into him. It might have been slightly mistimed but was it a red card? Hard to see it. I had a very good view of the second one, it happened right in front of me (on the sideline). Jordan Morris, yes, it was indiscipline but two hands on the guy’s chest and he goes down like he has been shot.
“The referee buys that and sends him off. There has been a lot more physical contacts than that and fellas didn’t lie down.”
But the real message for those on and off the field at the final whistle was that Dublin have a look about them that was evident not so long ago, in that six-in-a-row timeline.
DUBLIN: E Comerford; E Murchan, M Fitzsimons, L Gannon; J Small, B Howard (0-1), J McCarthy (0-2); B Fenton, T Lahiff (0-2); S Bugler (0-1), L O'Dell (0-2), C Kilkenny (0-5); C Costello (0-3), C O'Callaghan (0-2), D Rock (1-8, goal penalty, one 45, five frees). Subs: J Cooper for Murchan (50 mins), N Scully for O'Dell (56 mins), P Small (0-1, mark) for O'Callaghan (56 mins), S Clayton for Fenton (62 mins), B O'Leary for Costelloe (67 mins).
MEATH: H Hogan; R Clarke, C McGill, E Harkin; J McEntee, D Keogan (0-1), R Ryan; B Menton (0-2), R Jones (0-1); M Costello, C O'Sullivan, J O'Connor (0-3, two frees); J Morris (1-3, goal penalty, two frees), T O'Reilly (0-1), J Wallace (0-1). Subs: S McEntee (0-1) for Ryan (H-T), C Hickey for J McEntee (H-T), S Walsh for O'Reilly (H-T), J Flynn (0-1) for Jones (43 mins), B McMahon for O'Sullivan (59 mins).
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).