Martin Breheny: Galway and Tipp upsets put Dubs on high alert for Meath ambush
Published 25/06/2016 | 02:30
At some stage tomorrow evening, Meath will face the defining moments in their last latest attempt to re-establish a degree of parity with rivals who have been flying in a different orbit for quite a long time.
That's when it will become apparent if they are up to the challenge or whether their subservience to Dublin is set to continue.
And, if the latter is to happen, will it be a timid concession, as in the 2014 Leinster final, or a feisty rebellion?
Dublin haven't experienced much resistance in Leinster in recent seasons but, if it's to come, Meath are the most likely providers, not least because of tradition.
Dublin have been using Galway's win over Mayo and Tipperary's success over Cork as proof that conventional wisdom is unreliable and that however much the formbook suggests otherwise, Meath present a real risk to their attempt to win six Leinster titles in a row for the first time since 1974-'79.
Based on pure facts, Galway v Mayo is an interesting parallel. Prior to last Saturday, Mayo had enjoyed several seasons of rampant dominance over Galway, who have remained trapped in Division 2 for five seasons.
They took seven from a possible 14 points this year, three adrift of Cavan and five behind Tyrone.
So Galway had done nothing to suggest that they were poised to launch a fierce ambush on Mayo, yet pulled it off so effectively that observers were left wondering why they never saw it coming.
How could they, given how Galway had performed this year and in previous seasons?
Meath are in a somewhat similar situation.
They drew with Galway in the league before finishing with six from a possible 14 points, scarcely the sort of form that points to an upset against opposition that won all nine division games as they took the Allianz League crown for a fourth successive year.
Plus, of course, they also happen to be reigning All-Ireland champions. Add in the fact that Dublin beat Meath by 16 points in their last championship clash two years ago and you have a strong case as to why this will be another routine outing for Jim Gavin's ambitious adventurers.
Pointing out perceived problem areas (managements never talk about the real ones) has become stock procedure in the GAA so Dublin have been happy to offer reminders of how they conceded two goals against Laois a few weeks ago, the first time it had happened in the Leinster Championship for six years.
It is, of course, irrelevant since Dublin had the Laois game neatly packaged from early on so it was no surprise that concentration levels dropped in the second half.
It's most unlikely Laois would have made had such open access to Stephen Cluxton's goal in a tighter game.
Meath return to Croke Park for the first time since conceding 3-19 to Westmeath in last year's Leinster semi-final, having been hit for 3-20 by Dublin in the 2014 final.
The Royals have been more solidly defensively this year, albeit in Division 2, and later in the Leinster quarter-final against Louth, the Division 4 champions.
However, there's a massive difference between what they have encountered so far and what confronts them when the Dublin attack fires up to full power.
Dublin took Kerry for 2-18 in the league final, having hit the usually secure Donegal defence for 1-20 in the semi-final, returns that don't augur well for Meath's prospects of holding out for 70 minutes.
Still, they will be encouraged by Galway's gritty defiance last weekend, which ultimately wore down a Mayo team that took Dublin to a replay in last year's All-Ireland semi-final before blowing a great chance when they were well on top early in the second half.
The link with Galway offers Meath hope but no more than that. Unfortunately for them, the cycle in this great rivalry has Dublin very much in the ascendancy at present.
It's likely to remain so.