Do not believe Dublin v Meath doesn't matter

Curran: It'd be foolish to say Dubs don't care about it, because we know what Jim is like

Michael Newman of Meath in action against Glen Malone and Niall Hughes of Wexford during the O’Byrne Cup match earlier this month Pic: Sportsfile

Frank Roche

Dublin and Meath doesn't matter any more? Don't whisper that within earshot of Paul Curran.

Then again, the 1995 Footballer of the Year hails from a playing era when Dublin/Meath was the premier rivalry in Gaelic football. And then there's the family connection: Paul won his All-Ireland SFC medal with Dublin in '95, his late father Noel won his Celtic Cross with Meath 28 years earlier, in '67.

But, as Jim Gavin prepares to kickstart an era-defining year for Dublin football, his former teammate insists that every game matters. Even the 'least important' which, in the grand scheme of things, happens to be tonight's Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup semi-final against the old enemy in Donnycarney.

"Saturday does matter," Curran argues. "Obviously it matters to Meath, maybe more so than Dublin. But it'd be foolish to say Dublin don't care about it, because we know what Jim is like. Jim takes every match seriously."


The Dublin panel is just back from a Caribbean cruise (the reward for coasting to four-in-a-row) and the suspicion is that Gavin will unveil a pretty experimental line-up this evening. Something similar happened when these counties met in last month's Seán Cox fundraiser at Navan, where Gavin's team included just four of his All-Ireland '15' plus several more of last year's senior panel.

"They wouldn't have the work done that they'd like to have done for this one but, at the same time, they won't want to lose back-to-back to Meath," Curran reasons.

"I know the other one was a charity game but, at the end of the day, you need little things to hang onto - particularly from a Meath point of view. And beating Dublin in any sort of a game will give them that little bit more confidence. It's not a nothing game ... I think all these games have a bit of significance."

The Herald columnist expands: "The O'Byrne Cup is in its place in the overall scheme of things, and I think Jim has used it a little bit like Arsene Wenger with the League Cup when he was there (at Arsenal), trying to find a few new players. And in fairness that has worked. If they can get a couple of new fellas who gain valuable game-time, a bit of experience going into the league, they'll feel it's a success."

Unlike their vaunted rivals, Meath have three group games in the O'Byrne bank - victories over Laois and Wexford sandwiching defeat to Longford. A second-half goal from sub Seán Tobin propelled them to an ultimately comfortable seven-point win away to Wexford, confirming their progress to the last-four.

None of this will have eradicated the perennial question mark: do Meath look any closer to challenging Dublin's Leinster monopoly? Curran cannot see it.


"Although I know they're trying very hard down there and I know Andy McEntee (left) is very serious about getting them to the next level," he says.

"I think their next level is getting to Division 1 and competing with the big lads over the course of three, four, five years before they can really go at Dublin and expect to beat them in championship.

"I think Kildare are probably a little bit further down the line. There's a lot of good, young players coming through with the U20 success; they won the (Leinster) junior as well last year, they might get a player or two out of that, but they're a decent senior team and I think they're just that little bit ahead of Meath."

As a new and potentially historic year dawns, all eyes are on Dublin.

"It's going to be a very interesting year for them," Curran says.

"It's one to look forward to - from everyone's perspective really. Can they do it? Will they continue on next year and keep going? There's no full stop after five-in-a-row if they manage to win it."

But he warns: "Don't forget, they've won a couple of All-Irelands by a point or two and they've been taken to a replay and they've got a little bit of luck in one or two. It hasn't been an easy-winning four-in-a-row.

"Finals are hard to win. This one will be no different. There's no guarantee they'll win this one, no guarantee."

And if they don't, who might stop them?

"Ah, sure there's only one. Only one. When the run stops, whenever that will be, it will be Kerry, I think. I just can't see anybody else beating them."

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Dublin evens Draw 15/2 Meath evens



Dublin v Meath

(Parnell Park, Tonight 7.0)