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Rampant Royals display hunger in victory

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Donal Lenihan, Meath, in action against Pete Dooney, left, and Eoin O'Connor, DCU. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Donal Lenihan, Meath, in action against Pete Dooney, left, and Eoin O'Connor, DCU. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Gary Kelly, DCU, in action against David Dalton, Meath. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Gary Kelly, DCU, in action against David Dalton, Meath. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

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Donal Lenihan, Meath, in action against Pete Dooney, left, and Eoin O'Connor, DCU. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

EVEN in the midst of a 15-point cakewalk, it was possible to discern further signs of a Royal revival at Páirc Tailteann yesterday.

It's far too premature to talk of renaissance, and the recently porous opposition must be entered as a caveat, but there's a genuine buzz around Mick O'Dowd's dressing-room. They're young, hungry and playing with purpose.

They are running up prodigious tallies – four goals apiece against DIT and Wicklow, sandwiching an 18-point haul against Carlow IT. Yesterday, against a ransacked DCU, we had the perfect symmetry of four goals and 18 points.

It was that easy – too easy in fact – and perhaps we should reserve critical judgement until at least Sunday, when Meath travel to St Conleth's Park in Newbridge for an O'Byrne Cup final date with Kildare.

Their Lilywhite rivals have been going even more score-crazy over the past fortnight. This weekend, between the two most obvious pretenders to Dublin's Leinster throne, something will have to give.

Afterwards, the ever-understated O'Dowd was rightly keen to stress the pre-season nature of this competition while pinpointing areas for improvement – namely the squandered first half chances at one end and the concession of three goals at the other.

But the Meath boss didn't try and mask his clear satisfaction, either, especially at the fact that several of the rookie brigade are threatening to give him some sleepless nights when it comes to selecting a team for the opening league rounds.

"We are trying to create a very competitive squad. It should be difficult to play for Meath," he stressed.

Of the new faces on view in Navan, Cillian O'Sullivan deserves pre-eminent mention for a first half contribution that yielded two confidently-finished goals (in the fourth minute and then the 20th) and several more telling moments.

The Moynalvey wing-forward won a 15th minute penalty that was drilled home by Andrew Tormey, putting six-point daylight between the sides, and his intelligent passing teed up David Bray and Damien Carroll for a further brace of points.

The latter crossfield delivery would have qualified for assist of the match ... until it was bettered by Carroll's sublime defence-splitter from the left wing, locating Bray for a routine finish and Meath's fourth goal, in the 57th minute.

By then, any frisson of suspense had long since disappeared from the game. Even at half-time, trailing 3-8 to 1-3, there was no way back for a defensively suspect DCU.

 

CONSOLATION

The students had their moments, most notably when Conor McGraynor fisted home a flowing 18th minute move for his fourth goal in consecutive games; and then in the second half when Conor McHugh blazed a penalty high and wide before Jack Brady (59 minutes) and McHugh (68 minutes) eased the scoreboard pain with consolation goals.

And yet, if DCU could have added a further couple of goals, so too could the rampant Royals. It was that type of wide-open contest, and the students never came close to replicating their thrilling ambush of the Dubs.

"No excuses. We've had a few very tough weeks and exams are starting tomorrow. It's not an excuse. We were thoroughly beaten in every facet of the game by a better team on the day," admitted their manager Niall Moyna.

He described Tom Flynn's 10th minute black card as very innocuous, arguing that the Galway man "kept on running after he played the ball, he said, and your man ran straight into him". But Moyna ruefully concluded: "We made more mistakes than the referee."

For O'Dowd, the positives extended far beyond O'Sullivan's Man of the Match display – of the other newcomers, Dalton McDonagh was arguably most impressive, with three eye-catching points from play.

Of his comeback crew, Davy Dalton was typically tidy at corner-back, Shane O'Rourke got 66 valuable minutes into his legs at midfield, while the younger Bray brother tallied 1-2 from full-forward. Meanwhile, Michael Newman came off the bench to hit 0-4 (one from play) while reminding us all of his deadball acumen from distance.

Options, options. Not a bad January complaint.


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