Fans thrilled as favourites victorious – and countdown begins to Royal-Blue battle
THE busiest weekend in the GAA calendar produced some shock results but it all went according to the script at Croke Park where favourites Dublin and Meath emerged victorious.
The double-header produced the biggest attendance of the Championship with a noisy crowd of more than 53,000 filing through the turnstiles.
But it was the fans of the Royal County and the Dubs who were responsible for most of the clamour.
The men from the capital overcame Kildare – and the victory brings with it the annual expectations of great things to come by the time September rolls around.
"I've been supporting Dublin for over 50 years and this is as good a team as I've ever seen," said 72-year-old Tom Mooney from Mountjoy Square.
James Heavey (2), from Rathfarnham, was equally impressed with the Dubs but didn't have quite as much to compare with as he paid his first-ever visit to Croke Park with dad Robert and mum Linda.
Friends Sinead Keogh, Emma Buckley and Louise Corrigan (all 22) were sporting the blue colours despite living in Kill, Co Kildare.
"We moved to Kildare when we were seven but we're definitely born-and-bred Dubs," said Louise.
Meath overcame Wexford in a tighter affair, thanks in no small part to corner forward Mickey Newman – the dead ball specialist kicked nine frees and was responsible for half the Royal county's final 18-point tally.
David Bagnell, from Summerhill in Meath, will be hoping his accuracy doesn't desert him in a fortnight's time.
However, David's girlfriend Jennifer, from Clondalkin, thinks Dublin will be too strong for the Royals.
"We work together in AXA Insurance so the next two weeks are going to be fun. With four goals today, Meath aren't going to get near us," Jennifer said confidently.
For fans of Wexford and Kildare, a return to Croke Park could be a long way away as the perilous route through the qualifiers awaits.