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Securing league title would work wonders for Dubs -- Barr

AROUND 6,000 people braved a harsh January night for an O'Byrne Cup replay between Dublin and Meath in Navan last year.

The freezing conditions, the absence of a plethora of big names and the meaningless nature of the competition did little to dissuade supporters who underlined the enduring appeal of one of GAA's great rivalries.

"It'll be great for the supporters to get out and see a game that will have a little bit more to it at this time of year," said 1995 Dublin All-Ireland winner Keith Barr ahead of tonight's O'Byrne Shield final at Parnell Park.

"Some of the games around now are meaningless and barely register. There'll be a bit more intensity to this one because it's Meath and Dublin, but, in truth, it will mean very little to either Pat Gilroy or Seamus McEnaney in terms of their season."

From Meath's last-gasp victory at Pairc Tailteann last January, only three players from each side started the Leinster championship game between the teams last summer (Gary O'Brien, Brian Meade and Joe Sheridan for Meath, and Bernard Brogan, Ross McConnell and Eamon Fennell for Dublin).

The Royals scored 14 times to Dublin's 13 in the championship clash, but their five goals secured an 11-point victory -- the biggest winning margin between the sides in almost 50 years.


Perversely, that defeat proved to be the catalyst to Dublin's season as they went on to reach the All-Ireland semi-final, whereas Meath bowed out in the last eight.

The teams will contest different divisions in the league, so the next time they will come face-to-face could be the Leinster semi-final on June 26, and Barr reckons there'll be different faces on show when they next meet.

"One or two fellas might put up their hand over the course of the league. But I don't think you'll see wholesale changes from the regular side come the championship," he said.

"In some ways, the teams are almost opposites. Meath have had a problem in defence and in midfield for some time now, but they have three or four forwards who would probably make any team in the country, so I think Seamus McEnaney has a difficult job.

"The style Dublin have played under Pat Gilroy worked well for them last year. They'll bring numbers back and defend and rely on one or two lads to do the scoring at the other end. It means that if you lose, you'll only ever be beaten by a couple of points. But it also means you'll only win by one or two as well."

However, before the sunny days in Croke Park, there's a National League to be contested.

"Meath, traditionally, haven't been too worried about the league. But I'd like to see Dublin get a good run in Division 1," said Barr. "They beat Kerry and the likes last year and that gave them confidence. They've been without a national title for a long time now and it could work wonders for them if they managed to win it."

Irish Independent