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Frank Roche: Summer' set to finish in style

THE last time Summerhill were high kings of Meath, the Lyons brothers were in their pomp and Sean Boylan was still a year away from masterminding his first All-Ireland triumph with the Royals.

That was 1986, a full quarter-century ago. Now Summerhill are just 60 minutes away from making it a silver jubilee to remember, facing Dunshaughlin in tomorrow's novel Meath SFC decider at Páirc Tailteann (3.30).

Summerhill are favourites with the bookmakers and probably rightly so, although it's worth reminding that neither finalist was remotely fancied at the outset, having struggled in the group stages of last year's championship.

Even this summer, having made it to the quarter-finals, they weren't on the radar as champions-in-waiting.


Summerhill had started the group stages in a blaze of promise, but a form slump in their last two games didn't augur well for their last-eight collision with Navan O'Mahony's.

However, inspired by an early two-goal salvo from their danger man, Stephen Kennedy, they secured an eye-opening win -- one that must have been particularly sweet, given the still relatively fresh and painful memory of being hammered by O'Mahony's in the '08 county final.

They duly franked that improved form-line by overturning an earlier group loss to Wolfe Tones at the semi-final stage.

Dunshaughlin made hard work of overcoming Simonstown Gaels in their quarter-final, surrendering a lead late on and being forced to extra-time, where they had to come from behind.

Cue their standout performance of the season, eclipsing championship favourites Donaghmore/Ashbourne.

The manner in which Dunshaughlin dominated against the wind, having trailed by a point at the interval, will have made neutrals (not to mention Summerhill) sit up and take notice.

Dunshaughlin have one obvious advantage, given that they still retain a handful of the team that achieved three-in-a-row glory in the early noughties.

But the feeling is that Summerhill have played the classier football en route. Presuming they aren't inhibited by the burden of expectation, and that county man Conor Gillespie can help swing the midfield battle, then Kennedy & Co can propel them across the line.

Elsewhere, Garrycastle are clear favourites to make it a hat-trick of Westmeath SFC titles when they face Mullingar Shamrocks at Cusack Park tomorrow (3.45). You get the sense that the Dessie Dolan-inspired Athlone outfit remain driven with ambition for that bigger and elusive Leinster prize, and there was no hint of stagnation in their 2-17 to 2-8 eclipse of former champions Tyrrellspass, last day out.

It was less straight-forward for Shamrocks against arch rivals St Loman's. Seasoned observers give them a fighting chance, partly because they will derive huge motivation from defeat in last year's final.

p THE Louth SFC final between St Patrick's and Newtown Blues, due to be staged in Drogheda tomorrow, has been postponed following a bereavement in the St Patrick's club.


MEATH SFC FINAL: Summerhill 4/7, Draw 7/1, Dunshaughlin 7/4.

WESTMEATH SFC FINAL: Garrycastle 2/9, Draw 10/1, Mullingar Shamrocks 7/2.