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All set for one more Old Firm tale of the expected

Meath have developed a goal threat and they seem to have moved ahead of Kildare, but Dublin remain out of the Royals' reach


Ciarán Kilkenny can expect a lot of attention. Photo: Sportsfile

Ciarán Kilkenny can expect a lot of attention. Photo: Sportsfile

Ciarán Kilkenny can expect a lot of attention. Photo: Sportsfile

So have we learned anything new about Dublin under Dessie Farrell in their two championship games to date?


Dublin's performances have been very much in line with Leinster Championship displays of recent summers - ruthlessly clinical at times, power plays that have seen the scoreboard suddenly take on a different complexion, but also pockmarked by periods of careless play.

Last day out against Laois was a case in point. At the first water break Dublin led 0-3 to 0-2 and had spurned two good goal-scoring opportunities with Brian Fenton and Niall Scully denied by the O'Moore County's 'keeper Niall Corbet.

Then, following the water break, Dublin emerged in a more focused mindframe and by half-time were eight points clear (1-7 to 0-2) and they cruised home in the second half to eventually prevail by a massive 22 points.

While it's great from a Dublin perspective that they are chasing a historic tenth provincial title in succession and also a sixth Sam Maguire in a row, it does not lead to grabbing the public's imagination.

Dublin's dominance sparks the usual cacophony of 'whataboutery' at this time of year but I had thought at this stage either, or maybe both, Meath and Kildare would have emerged from their long slumbers to challenge the Dubs.

That hasn't proven to be the case and on the basis of last weekend's Meath victory, Kildare are further back than the Royals.

As a young Dublin supporter I grew up on some great rivalries in Leinster, particularly Dublin and Meath. Their games in the late 1980s and into the '90s had everything - massively intensity bordering on brutality, tight contests, great scores, huge crowds, controversies, colour and drama to the death. Tales of the unexpected.

Great days which generated an electric buzz in Croke Park - so the situation we find ourselves in now is quite sad, to be honest.

The province needs the Dublin-Meath rivalry to be born again.

Can tomorrow night's game be any different than that of recent championship meetings between the counties?

While I don't think the eventual outcome will be, I do think Meath are an improving side and their manager, Andy McEntee, will set them up to attack Dublin, unlike the tactics employed by both Westmeath and Laois.


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Meath come into this game on a high following clearcut victories over Wicklow and Kildare. They have found a goal-scoring touch that they could have done with in the league, they have a strong running game and look in great physical shape, while the introduction of some young talent has strengthened their squad.

Meath had ten scorers in both their championship games to date and also scored 2-2 off the bench in both games. Even if the opposition was not top-class, the statistics suggest they are an emerging force.

New blood like Shane Walsh, Jordan Morris and Matthew Costello have acquitted themselves very well.

Morris has hit 4-5 (including two penalties and two frees) in this championship, following up on his impressive impact role in the league against Mongaghan in their concluding game, while Costello has tallied 2-1 from wing-back.

Costello was a forward with Meath underage teams so is comfortable finding himself in a very advanced position. However, his defensive capabilities will be tested tomorrow.

All three are just 20 years of age, but the absence of a crowd will mean tomorrow night's Leinster final will not be as intimidating as it might have been for younger players who have little experience of big days in Croke Park.

The Meath management will also draw some inspiration from their display against Dublin in the league encounter just a month ago in Parnell Park.

While Dublin won by four points in the end, but the men from Meath could have been returning home with a big scalp but for some goalkeeping heroics by Stephen Cluxton.

The display of Donal Keogan that night was impressive and I expect him to be handed the man-marking duties on Ciarán Kilkenny.

While some Dublin players don't seem to have hit top gear yet, Kilkenny, along with Fenton, have been the dynamos for Farrell's side and both can anticipate a lot of attention.

Tactically, Meath have big decisions to make regarding their own goalkeeper, Marcus Brennan, and his kick-out strategy.

Goalkeeping selections have been in a state of flux for Meath under McEntee - he has used 11 in all competitions - while Brennan was their goalkeeping coach until Andy Colgan suffered injury during this year's league.

Brennan is central to Meath putting up a battle tomorrow night.

He can't afford to go short, if he does it would spell trouble as Meath didn't look overly comfortable on a few occasions against Kildare when going short.

For Meath to prosper they have to take Dublin on in the middle of the park, be brave around the breaking ball and run hard at Dublin's defence. In Cillian O'Sullivan they have a player who can be expected to test Dublin in the central channel.

They will also need to mix up their play with some long early diagonal ball into their inside forward line as they will need goals to have a chance of upsetting the odds.

Dublin have selection calls to make also with Cormac Costello, Paul Mannion and Brian Howard making cases for inclusion from the start.

Costello was particularly impressive following his introduction, but like Jim Gavin, Farrell will hold players in reserve knowing the last quarter could be decisive.

Meath were in much better physical and mental shape than Kildare in the last quarter last weekend and they will be quietly confident that they are in a much better place now than they were in last year's Leinster final when Dublin totally outclassed them.


On that occasion, Dublin made their intent clear early on and led 0-5 to 0-0 after a little over 20 minutes, with Jack McCaffrey in the vanguard.

While there is no McCaffrey for Meath to contend with on this occasion, I don't see the outcome being any different.

I anticipate a good battle, but for the Dubs to eventually underline the gap, once again, between themselves and the best of the rest in Leinster.