Meek Meath make rivals look mighty
WHAT an embarrassment! What an embarrassment of riches at Dublin's disposal as they blew Meath away in one of the most one-sided Leinster SFC finals in living memory.
It was the Dubs' third successive final win over their country cousins, their ninth Leinster title in 10 years and by far their most comprehensive to date.
This was the clash that was to herald a major revival in Meath football fortunes, but instead it ended in acute disappointment and utter despair for their supporters in the crowd of 62,660.
Dublin were simply awesome, or were they? They showed the style, character, intensity, scoring power and physicality that has become their hallmark. However, the Meath men made it all too easy for them, competing at a level well short of what would have done them justice.
That is being kind to Mick O'Dowd's men as they simply failed to show for most of the 70 minutes. All the attributes associated with past Meath teams and adjectives used to describe their heroics didn't apply on Sunday as their display was anything but that of roaring Royals.
Instead we witnessed tame and meek challengers, all too willing to allow the stylish Dubs strut their stuff in a clash that resembled little more than a runabout for the rampant champions. Meath lost all the personal battles and were out-witted and overrun to such an extent that the margin between the sides could have been much greater.
The Dublin victory was slightly overshadowed by an allegation after the match from Meath boss Mick O'Dowd that sub Mickey Burke had been bitten by an opponent in the closing minutes.
The allegation proved a controversial talking point and deflected somewhat from Dublin's win, but it was probably in nobody's interest to highlight the incident at that particular time.
The Meath men just about have enough time to lick their wounds, regroup and start preparation for the round four qualifier tie against high-flying Armagh at Croke Park on Saturday week at 5pm. That will be an ideal opportunity to show that they are not as bad as Sunday reflected.
The signs were ominous from the early stages and were more clear-cut following Dublin's first goal from Bernard Brogan, and with Dublin scoring the final four points of the opening half to lead 1-12 to 0-6 at the break, a massacre was on the cards.
Any chance of the 'traditional revival' was banished within four minutes of the restart as Man of the Match Kevin McManamon brushed aside the challenge of Padraic Harnan before blasting high to the net to leave his side leading 2-13 to 0-7.
That lead extended to 20 points by the hour mark and should have been more a minute later as Dublin tried to walk the ball into the Meath net, but Dean Rock's final touch rebounded off a post to save Meath blushes.
Meath's consolation goal arrived on 62 minutes from Mickey Newman after he pounced on a breaking ball and produced a neat finish to the corner of Stephen Cluxton's net.
Cluxton, who never allowed a kickout or a clearance stray too far from a teammate, was also beaten in the opening half by a well-struck effort from Stephen Bray. Unfortunately, referee Padraig Hughes had already blown his whistle for an earlier foul on Dalton McDonagh.
Dublin were ahead 1-7 to 0-4 at that stage and a goal would have been the perfect confidence boost for Meath approaching half-time. However, it was anything but a game-changer, such was the extent of Dublin's dominance.
Meath reshuffled defence, midfield and attack as Dalton McDonagh replaced Brian Meade before the start. The match-up didn't prove adequate, though, with only Donncha Tobin, Andrew Tormey, Donal Keogan, Kevin Reilly and Stephen Bray to a lesser extent making any sort of impact.
As well as being outclassed, most of the Meath players were 'stuck to the ground' and yards behind their opponents in the race for possession. They had no answer to Cluxton's kickout strategy and were stretched to the limit by the pace and power of the Dublin players.
A rebound off the woodwork fell kindly for Bernard Brogan for Dublin's opening goal, and by half-time the corner forward had racked up 1-4.
The rampant McManamon notched four opening-half points, including three in a row before the break, and Bernard Brogan, Paul Flynn, Jack McCaffrey and substitutes Dean Rock and Cormac Costello piled on the agony before another sub, Eoghan O'Gara, swept past Eoghan Harrington for a third goal on the hour mark.
DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton 0-1 ('45); Rory O'Carroll, Michael Fitzsimons, Philip McMahon; Jack McCarthy, Nicky Devereux, James McCaffrey 0-1; MD Macauley, Cian O'Sullivan 0-1; Paul Flynn 0-1, Kevin McManamon 1-5, Diarmuid Connolly 0-1; Alan Brogan 0-1, Paul Mannion, Bernard Brogan 1-6 (0-4f). Subs: C Costello 0-1 for Mannion (36min), Dean Rock 0-1 for Connolly (42), Eoghan O'Gara 1-1 for A Brogan (49), Darren Daly for Devereux (59), Denis Bastick for Macauley (59), Tomás Brady for O'Sullivan (68).
MEATH: Paddy O'Rourke; Donal Keogan, Kevin Reilly, Eoghan Harrington; Bryan Menton, Padraic Harnan, Donncha Tobin; Shane O'Rourke 0-2f, Andrew Tormey 0-2; Bryan McMahon, Michael Newman 1-2 (0-1f), Damien Carroll 0-1; Graham Reilly, Stephen Bray 0-2, Dalton McDonagh. Subs: Joey Wallace for G Reilly (31min), Mickey Burke for Carroll (36), David Bray 0-1 for McDonagh (46), B Meade for S O'Rourke (46), James McEntee for McMahon (blood, 53), Mark O'Sullivan for Menton (53), Paddy Gilsenan for Tobin (69).
WIDES: Dublin 9 Meath 13
FREES: Dublin 14 Meath 13
YELLOW CARDS: Dublin - Connolly, O'Gara; Meath - Tobin, Burke, P O'Rourke, S Bray.
REFEREE: P Hughes (Armagh)