Saturday 19 August 2017

Martin Breheny: Welcome movement in Leinster undergrowth

Meath's Daragh Champion, left, James Conlon, 13, Ethan Devin and Eoin Smyth celebrate after beating Dublin in the Leinster GAA Football Minor Championship. Photo: Ray Lohan/Sportsfile
Meath's Daragh Champion, left, James Conlon, 13, Ethan Devin and Eoin Smyth celebrate after beating Dublin in the Leinster GAA Football Minor Championship. Photo: Ray Lohan/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Dublin's 1/25 odds to win the Leinster SFC title for a sixth successive year and for the 11th time in 12 seasons underlines the perceived distance they are ahead of their rivals.

It also casts a depressing shadow over the eastern campaign at a time when eight of 11 counties (Kilkenny don't compete) are in Divisions 3 and 4 of the Allianz League, the exceptions being Dublin (Div 1) Meath and Kildare (Div 2).

Still, something is stirring in the undergrowth which offers hope for more competitive times ahead.

Meath minors, coached by former All-Ireland winner Barry Callaghan, beat Dublin by 10 points in the Leinster quarter-final last weekend.

And, while it may appear like a small development, there has been a power shift at U-18 level in Leinster in recent years. By the end of this campaign, Dublin will have won only one of the last four minor titles (2014).

Kildare won in 2013 and 2015 and are back in this year's semi-final, where they will play Meath while Laois face Offaly on the other side.

Progress at minor level is, of course, no guarantee of success later on but it's encouraging for the rest of Leinster that young guns from other counties are matching Dublin. It also suggests for all the impressive streamlining that Dublin have brought to development squads, others are beginning to do equally well off less resources.

But even then the most sophisticated of structures will only bring success if enough natural talent is available to feed into them. The word from Kildare and Meath, in particular, is that young talents streams are flowing a lot stronger than they were a few years ago.

Irish Independent

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