O'BYRNE CUP SF QUARTER-FINAL
DUBLIN v MEATH
(Parnell Park, Tomorrow, 2.0)
TG4 were reeling in the years last Sunday afternoon, following up their live Dublin-Wexford broadcast by repeating the defining episode of the famous four-game Dublin-Meath saga of 1991.
Even at a remove of almost two decades, those last few minutes must still be enough to induce coronary palpitations/nausea/clinical depression/all three of the above in the long-afflicted Dublin diehard.
Today, admittedly, that green jersey no longer holds the same fear as when Messrs Flynn, Stafford and O'Rourke were in their free-scoring pomp. Nor will it tomorrow, when Dublin and Meath cross paths with local bragging rights and a place in the O'Byrne Cup semi-finals up for grabs.
Dublin may only have won a solitary All-Ireland title since that fateful July joust 19 years ago -- and none at all since '95 -- but at least they can boast clear-cut supremacy in their latter-day duels with the old enemy.
The last four championship ties -- 2002, '05, '07 after a replay, and again last June -- have gone the way of the boys in Blue.
And when the sides last collided, literally, at tomorrow's venue, the so-called 'battle of Parnell Park' was also won by the Dublin dozen, both on the scoreboard (0-13 to 2-6) and in Paddy Russell's black book (three red cards to a Royal pair)!
It's hard to imagine this latest instalment being remotely so feisty as that '08 league clash or, for that matter, '91. It's only January; it's only the O'Byrne Cup. It's also the case that a raft of newcomers will be out to impress their respective managers, and Pat Gilroy and Eamonn O'Brien would prefer to see young wannabes flashing over points in preference to flashing fists.
Still, when the Royals and the Dubs rumble, you can never be entirely sure if or when old sores will be reopened and old scores settled.
Enough about ancient history. Both managers could derive some satisfaction from seeing experimental line-ups eventually run out comprehensive winners last weekend: Dublin had eight points to spare against a Wexford side that faltered over the home straight, while Meath won away to Longford by two clear goals.
Compared to Dublin, Meath had a greater number of familiar first- choices on patrol and their top performer of '09, Joe Sheridan, carried on in the same productive vein from centre-forward. Big Joe tallied 1-3 from play, matching the return of Jamie Queeney at full-forward.
Dublin's most dangerous forward last Sunday, Brendan McManamon, only appeared as a half-time substitute. He duly scored 0-4 (three from play) as well as winning the first of two Dublin's penalties, but picked up an injury in the process and won't be featuring tomorrow.
Nor will his brother Kevin who -- despite playing the full 70 minutes against Wexford and looking lively during Dublin's belated burst of dominance -- has been omitted from the matchday squad of 24.
With Eoghan O'Gara also suspended following his straight red, it means there will be at least two changes up front for Dublin.
It remains to be seen whether Bernard Brogan, having tallied 0-8 for the St Declan's All-Stars against Dublin on Thursday night, will be given another run-out less than three days later, this time in Sky Blue.
At the other end, Dublin have more experienced options than last weekend. However, notwithstanding the inclusion of skipper Paul Griffin and David Henry in his squad, Gilroy may be tempted to give Darragh Nelson another audition at wing-back, especially with James McCarthy ruled out through injury.
Nelson belied his youthful years with some brilliant club form for Ballyboden last autumn; he lined out against the Declan's alumni on Thursday and certainly looks one for the future.
As for the present, victory tomorrow is in the lap of the Gods -- and a whole clutch of young guns desperate to make their mark. Time to flip that coin...