Thursday 14 December 2017

Honours even as Daly belter rescues Dubs

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

MOST of the players on duty yesterday were only toddlers when Dublin and Meath produced the four-match championship marathon in 1991, but the older observers who enjoyed a thrilling contest in Parnell Park couldn't help but wallow in nostalgia after watching a good old-fashioned collision between two great rivals.

Colin Daly's thumping kick right at the end of extra-time snatched a draw for Dublin, just as Niall Mooney rescued Meath in normal time yesterday when he clipped over the equalising point in the fifth minute of stoppage-time. It meant that 90 minutes of intense -- if sometimes error-ridden -- action had failed to produce a winner, leaving the sides heading for a replay in Pairc Tailteann on Wednesday night.

That will be another opportunity for players who are trying to make the breakthrough into senior level.

"You could see how hard lads from both sides were pushing for places today. Guys were really trying to show what they can do and it all added to what was a fine game of football for this time of year. It will have done both sides good," said Dublin captain, Paul Griffin, who came on for the second half of normal time.


Kevin McManamon led the charge of Dublin's young brigade as he built another layer to his impressive case for retention when Dublin press on to the more competitive National League circuit next month.

The St Jude's man scored two goals, one in the second half of normal time which drew Dublin level for the first time and another near the close of the first period of extra-time which gave his side a four-point lead (2-13 to 0-15).

Apart from taking his goals well, McManamon's willingness to run at opponents increased his threat quota in an attack where David Henry and subs Bernard Brogan and Dean Rock also did well.

It looked as if McManamon's second goal might prove too much for Meath as they headed into a second period of extra-time time but, although energy levels were dropping rapidly, their response was quick and effective as Joe Sheridan drilled in a goal three-minutes after the restart. Kevin Bonner put Dublin two points clear before three successive Meath points gave them a crucial edge.

However, Daly popped up to kick the levelling point right at the end. It was the seventh time the sides were level since Dublin had equalised for the first time in the 49th minute after Meath had led all of the way up to then.

Meath were two points ahead at half-time (0-8 to 0-6) and increased the advantage to four early in the second half, but McManamon's first goal changed the dynamic. Ultimately, it took Mooney's late point to save Meath and send the game into extra-time, a 20-minute period which also proved inconclusive.

Meath had looked the more structured side for the first 40 minutes with the likes of Graham Reilly, Cormac McGuinness, Eoin Harrington, Conor Gillespie, Sheridan and Jamie Queeney doing especially well. Queeney maintained his excellence all the way to the finish, scoring seven points, five from open play and two from frees.

He gave Dublin full-back, Paul Casey a torrid time on a day which he will have really enjoyed. However, it won't have done much for Casey's challenge to become the new Dublin full-back.

Eamonn Fennell and Michael McAuley did well at midfield for Dublin while the experiment of playing Henry in attack worked up to a point. However, whether they can afford to do without him in defence is a debate in which there's little consensus around the capital.

Dublin crowded the midfield/half-back/half-forward areas which meant there were often large tracts of ground inside the opposition 45-metre line, which was populated by just four or five players.

That suited Meath who were happy to keep the game as tight as possible, although they were stretched when Dublin pressed forward in waves in an effort to release their runners.

Meath manager Eamonn O'Brien was pleased with his side's effort, most especially the battling qualities they showed after Dublin had made what looked like the match-winning break with McManamon's second goal.

"Everybody gave their best and tried as hard as they possibly could -- that's all you can expect at this time of year," said O'Brien. "We need to get training into the lads after missing out during the bad weather but having said that, it's great to get a game like that. It will bring players on a lot."

Like many others, he has still to form a definitive view on the experimental rules. He is happy enough with the 'mark' (quite a few were made yesterday) but is yet to be convinced on the fisted hand pass.

"It's hard to know whether passes are being made with the fist. I certainly couldn't tell quite a few times so it must be very hard for referees to make a call," he said.

Laois referee Eddie Kinsella penalised some illegal hand passes but, as O'Brien pointed out, it's very difficult to get it right in a high-speed game.

One disturbing aspect of the opening two weekends of the new season has been the amount of personal fouling. It was there at its destructive worst again yesterday and -- suffice to say -- if the harsh measures applied early last year were in operation, several players would have been sent off.

There was nothing malicious in the exchanges but petty fouling did take away from what was otherwise a very enjoyable encounter. Both sides will feel they should have clinched victory but certainly Dublin should have done better in the closing minutes of normal time.

They had a few chances to extend their lead to two or more points but failed to take them and were punished by Meath's late attack which brought the leveller.

Scorers -- Dublin: K McManamon 2-0, B Brogan 0-3 (0-1f), D Henry, D Kelly 0-2 each, J Brogan, T Diamond, B Kelly (0-1f), D Rock, M McAuley, A Hubbard, K Bonner, C Daly 0-1 each. Meath: J Queeney 0-7 (0-2f), J Sheridan 1-2 (0-1 '45), D Bray (0-2f), N Mooney 0-3 each, S Bray 0-2, G Reilly 0-1.

Dublin -- S Cluxton; P Conlon, P Casey, C McCormack; A Hubbard, S Murray, D Nelson; E Fennell, M McAuley; J Brogan, T Diamond, D Henry; D Kelly, B Kelly, K McManamon. Subs: P Griffin for J Brogan (h-t), D Rock for B Kelly (h-t), B Brogan for D Kelly (45), D Kerrigan for Diamond (50), G Brennan for Fennell (54), K Bonner for Murray (60), C Daly for McAuley (80), S O'Shaughnessy for Henry (83), J Brogan for McCormack (89).

Meath -- D Lyons; D Dalton, J Macken, E Harrington; S Kenny, C McGuinness, G Reilly; C Gillespie, M Ward; P Byrne, J Sheridan, N Mooney; D Bray, J Queeney, S Kennedy. Subs: G O'Brien for Kenny (9), B Meade for Ward (h-t), N McKeigue for Harrington (42), S Bray for Kennedy (54). S McAnarney for Byrne (83), S Sheridan for Mooney (85).

Ref -- E Kinsella (Laois).

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