Saint Jude abandons Meath as Dublin run riot at Páirc Tailteann

Meath 1-11 Dublin 2-19

Mathew Costello of Meath in action against John Small of Dublin during the Allianz Football League Division 2 match between Meath and Dublin at Páirc Tailteann in Navan, Meath. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Seán WallDrogheda Independent

“BEATING Dublin is the benchmark for Meath,” Colm O’Rourke told the nation upon his ratification as county senior football manager.

Well, could one respectfully suggest that the bar needs to be lowered, quite considerably at that, on the evidence of this mauling in round six of the Allianz FL at Páirc Tailteann last Saturday.

Meath seem as far away as ever from knocking Dublin off their perch after producing a quite shocking display as their winless run extended against their rampant opponents.

For all intents and purposes, this was a non-event, a mismatch between two counties with nothing much in common apart from being neighbours. It was the first league clash between the counties in Navan since 1988. That also ended in a big win for the Dubs but the big asterisk at the end of that scoreline was that the Royals were resting on their laurels after putting back-to-back All-Ireland titles together a few months earlier.

This latest clash was billed as the beginning of the renaissance. The day the Royals would lay down a marker that they were on the way back. There was a capacity crowd and expectations were high that Meath would at least deliver a performance to rekindle hope. Even the RTÉ cameras turned up to televise the game live. A Super Saturday and a fitting curtain-raiser to the rugby later in the evening, or so we thought. What a letdown it proved to be. Saint Jude is the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes but he definitely wasn’t in the Meath dugout on Saturday, he must have gone to the Aviva instead.

Seeing supporters leave before the final whistle even allowing for the counter-attraction of the rugby was a bit deflating. Some had seen enough and, in truth, it was painful to watch as the hosts failed to raise a gallop.

There were vast differences between the sides in all facets of the game – speed, agility, mental and physical toughness – but the most glaring of all was the skill level of the respective teams.

That was amply demonstrated in no uncertain terms in the opening 15 minutes as Dublin had five shots at the posts and secured five points. Meath enjoyed a greater share of possession in the same period and also had five opportunities but only managed to nail one of them. The four other efforts sailed wide of the target and it swiftly went downhill from there.

By half-time, Dublin, with the advantage of the breeze, led by 1-11 to 1-2 and, at that stage, the scoreline was kind to the home side.

The Dublin full-forward line did the bulk of the damage throughout and between them tallied 2-11. They ran the Meath full-back line ragged but to be fair to Adam O’Neill, Michael Flood and Harry O’Higgins, they were sitting ducks and were given little cover further out the pitch.

Dublin’s ability to transfer the ball from defence to attack was frightening at times. They could create space and score at will and Meath were barely able to lay a glove on them. Midfielder Brian Fenton weighed in with four points, including a free which hopped in front of ’keeper Harry Hogan and over the ’bar. Then there was Lee Gannon who strolled up from defence to land two points.


Meath were given a glimmer of hope when Diarmuid Moriarty fed Mathew Costello and his effort from the left wing sailed over the head of ’keeper David O’Hanlon and nestled in the net. A badly needed tonic on 20 minutes which left it 0-7 to 0-2 but it wasn’t that close for long.

It was double scores, 0-10 to 1-2, heading into the final minutes of the half and if it had ended that way at the break, Meath could have been reasonably happy. Dublin had spurned goal chances when Con O’Callaghan blasted wide on 22 minutes and then relative newcomer O’Gara, brother of seven times All-Ireland winner Eoghan, slapped wide following a lighting move.

However, a minute before the break, O’Gara got on the end of another move and firmly planted the ball in the Meath net. He then added a point to leave nine between the teams at half-time.

O’Rourke rang the changes at the start of the second half, introducing three subs, but it didn’t change the pattern of the game to any great extent. Dublin’s accuracy deserted them momentarily as they struck three wides within six minutes of the restart.

Substitute Aaron Lynch had the opening score of the second half with a sweetly-struck effort with the outside of his boot. Meath, though, were unable to make inroads on Dublin’s lead and the teams shared six points evenly in the third quarter.

Fenton kick-started a flurry of Dublin scores on 55 minutes, four points inside five minutes to stretch their advantage.

Cathal Hickey and Donal Lenihan both hit fine scores for Meath and Lynch went close to finding the net, his effort blocked at the expense of a ’45 which Jack Flynn converted.

Flynn and Lynch accounted for further scores to bring it back to some kind of respectability, an eight point game. Dublin though weren’t quite finished and they had a point from Seán Bugler. Then in the final minute of added time Colm Basquel waltzed past a couple of defender before passing to Cormac Costello who had the simple task of finishing to the net.

To compound Meath’s misery, Donal Keogan limped out of the action in the closing stages with a suspected hamstring injury.

MEATH: Harry Hogan; Adam O'Neill, Michael Flood, Harry O'Higgins; Donal Keogan, Pádraic Harnan, Cathal Hickey 0-1; Ronan Jones, Jack Flynn 0-3 (1 ’45); Jack O'Connor, Jason Scully, Shane Crosby; Jordan Morris, Mathew Costello 1-2 (0-1f), Diarmuid Moriarty 0-2 (1f). Subs: Cillian O'Sullivan for O'Connor (HT), Dáithí McGowan for Crosby (HT), Aaron Lynch 0-2 for Morris (HT), Donal Lenihan 0-1 for Scully (55), Eoin Harkin for Keogan (61).

DUBLIN: David O'Hanlon; Michael Fitzsimons, Dáire Newcombe, David Byrne; John Small, Eoin Murchan, Lee Gannon 0-2; James McCarthy, Brian Fenton 0-4 (1f); Niall Scully, Ciarán Kilkenny 0-1, Tom Lahiff; Killian O'Gara 1-3, Con O'Callaghan 0-4, Cormac Costello 1-4 (0-1f, 0-1 ’45). Subs: Seán Bugler 0-1 for Scully (28), Brian Howard for Lahiff (55), Colm Basquel for O'Gara (62), Ryan Basquel for O'Callaghan (67), Cian Murphy for Gannon (70).

REFEREE: Conor Lane (Cork).