Royals stay calm to land last-gasp winner
A massive endorsement for at least one of the new rules in Pairc Tailteann last night as Meath edged out their old rivals in a finish that would grace any of the classics that these sides have produced over the years.
Cormac McGuinness landed the point that secured the win, but had Dublin put the ball out of play at any point after their fisted equaliser from Kevin Bonner in added time, the sides would have required extra-time for the second time in a matter of days.
However, Dublin went for the jugular themselves, bringing massive excitement to the finish, and were guilty of wasting possession and chances before McGuinness coolly pointed as Pairc Tailteann heaved to a noise hardly heard in the old ground in the past.
It was the latest instalment in one of the GAA's most intense rivalries. But we should have expected as much, finishes like this are par for the course as far as games between Dublin and Meath are concerned.
The halves could hardly have been much more different. From Meath's first score through Jamie Queeney in the third minute, to their seventh point of the half just before the interval from Brian Meade, the Royals were in control of the opening period as they took a five-point lead in at the break.
The only spark of controversy in an otherwise forgettable opening 35 minutes came when Dublin full-forward Colin Daly and manager Pat Gilroy got involved in a spat with Meath full-back James Macken when the Skerries man was out on the sideline receiving instructions.
Westmeath referee Pat Fox flashed a yellow at the two players, but otherwise the game flowed uninterrupted.
David Bray and Joe Sheridan led the Dublin defence a merry dance as Meath looked set to record a facile victory over the old enemy.
Dublin, who made 10 changes from the side that snatched a late draw in Parnell Park last weekend, seemed completely outclassed in every department. It should be noted, though, that only one of the starting 15, Bernard Brogan, is assured of championship action this summer and he landed their only two points of a dour first half and finished the day with 1-5 to his name.
The Dubs were much better after the restart and outscored the hosts by 1-4 to 0-1 in the opening 15 minutes to find themselves a point to the good, despite having being second best in the exchanges to that point.
And it could have been even better for the Dubs had Brogan converted a penalty which was awarded after Daly had been pulled down in the square immediately after the restart.
However, Brogan made amends on the 50-minute mark when he raised the first green flag of the evening. Until that point Brogan had been relatively well contained by the talented young corner-back David Dalton, but as with all class operators, he needed only a sniff of goal to turn the game on its head. The Oliver Plunkett's man exchanged passes with Daly and slapped the ball to the net to put Dublin into the lead
By this stage, the Meath support was restless and Eamonn O'Brien's men started to struggle for the fluidity they enjoyed early on. Sheridan was lost to injury and even the introduction of Stephen Bray and Cian Ward couldn't spark them into life as frees from Jamie Queeney and David Bray were all the Royals could manage in response to the Dublin onslaught.
As is often the case between these two, another twist in the story was just around the corner and Queeney added to his burgeoning reputation when he rattled the Dublin net with a cool finish after a clever pass inside from Ward.
But that one-point lead was never going to be enough and Dublin finally equalised through Bonner after Brogan and Tiernan Diamond failed with close range fisted attempts.
Dublin pushed for the win with time up and Brogan had another late chance to win it for Gilroy's men, but his effort was gathered by Meath sub 'keeper Paddy O'Rourke which started the move that led to McGuinness' deciding score.
Among those to the fore in Dublin's second-half revival was midfielder Eamonn Fennell.
Like the rest of the Dublin side, he produced an abject performance in the first half, but was impressive in the second period and landed the second of two points to give Dublin manager Gilroy a timely reminder of his talents as the row over his transfer from O'Toole's to St Vincent's continues to threaten his inter-county career.
SCORERS -- Meath: J Queeney 1-3 (0-2f), D Bray 0-3 (0-2f), J Sheridan, O Lewis, B Meade, C McGuinness 0-1 each. Dublin: B Brogan 1-5 (0-2f), E Fennell 0-2, D Kelly, K Bonner 0-1 each.
Meath -- D Lyons; D Dalton, J Macken, N McKeigue; G O'Brien, C McGuinness, S Sheridan; M Kennedy, B Meade; P Byrne, J Sheridan, O Lewis; D Bray, J Queeney, S Kennedy. Subs M Ward for M Kennedy (19), C Ward for S Kennedy (h-t), S Bray for J Sheridan (36), P O'Rourke for Lyons (52), G Reilly for Byrne (65s).
Dublin -- C Reilly; P Conlon, R McConnell, C McCormack; P Casey, B Sexton, C Gucikan; D Carrigan, E Fennell; D Kelly, K Bonner, S O'Shaughnessy; A Kerin, C Daly, B Brogan. Subs: D Watson for Kerin (22), S Murray for Guckian, T Diamond for O'Shaughnessy (both h-t), N O'Connor for Conlon (55), L Fleming for Sexton (58).
Ref -- P Fox (Westmeath).