Dominant first half helps Blues ease past Meath and book final berth against Kildare
Any hopes that Sunday’s encounter at Croke Park would offer a welcome throwback to the bitter, high-octane and tense rivalry associated with Dublin and Meath meetings of old were quickly dispelled in what was another one-sided and passionless affair at headquarters.
The 1-27 to 1-14 scoreline hardly does justice to Dublin’s dominance on a day when their opponents failed to deliver anything close to their best form, while Dublin displayed further signs of improvement, particularly in their attacking third.
With Dublin kicking the first five points of the day, Meath were already chasing shadows and while they offered some hope with a brief spell of pressure late in the first quarter, it never developed into anything more consistent.
Their inefficiency in attack and porousness in defence were in marked contrast to a Dublin team that looked determined to rack up as big a score as possible in the first half, with Cormac Costello and Ciarán Kilkenny setting the tone initially before the likes of Con O’Callaghan and James McCarthy arrived at the point party.
Granted, there was a slight dip in the levels of accuracy after the break, understandably so given the precision on display initially and the general lack of competitiveness that marked the fixture, but it was encouraging to see the holders return to a semblance of their old selves, a view shared by former Dublin sharpshooter Ray Cosgrove.
“I think you would have to be happy with what you saw from Dublin, especially in the first half, where they produced an exhibition of point-taking.
“I thought that they looked awesome during that period and it was really encouraging to see the accuracy that was largely marked absent during the league.
“There were signs of an improvement the previous day against Wexford and I felt Dublin just raised it a notch again and they should be very pleased with how they performed during that period.
“Things look to be clicking well in the forwards and I thought that Lorcan O’Dell looked very sharp and brought a bit of freshness to the forward line.
“Obviously, Dublin took their foot off the gas in the second half and made a few errors when in possession, but that’s something for them to work on ahead of the Leinster final.
“They completely fell asleep in last year’s match against Meath in the second half to only pull through in the end, but that never looked likely to materialise on Sunday as the players looked far more focused and tuned in.
“Hopefully, that’s a positive sign that they have learnt from last year’s mistakes and are well focused on what they need to improve on.
“When you factor in the return of Paddy Small to the pitch, it’s understandable that Dublin can take a lot of encouragement from Sunday’s game. I thought he looked in great shape and took his mark and point very well and was unlucky with the goal chance he created.
“More importantly, he raises the level of competition for places and increases the options at Dessie Farrell’s disposal,” said Cosgrove.
As encouraging as it was, Meath’s poverty on the day has to be taken into account when assessing Dublin’s performance, particularly the ease with which they raced through from midfield unopposed to create numerous scoring chances.
Small’s misplaced hand pass to Ballymun clubmate Dean Rock and Con O’Callaghan’s penalty-winning burst aside, the Dubs never really threatened to net from play, something you would imagine they will need to improve on for the harder challenges that lie ahead later in the year.
They weren’t exactly watertight at the back, conceding gilt-edged goal opportunities in either half, but Cosgrove feels that the positives far outweigh the negatives as he looks ahead to Dublin’s Leinster final joust against Kildare on Saturday week.
“I suppose there would be a slight concern about the two goal chances that were given up and the penalty at the end, but these are things that can be ironed out.
“Having Evan Comerford back in goal gave the team a bit more stability, I thought, and Tom Lahiff went very well again in what I felt was his best game for the team.
“Brian Howard looks very comfortable and imposing at centre-back and I’m delighted to see him positioned there while it was nice for someone like Shane Clayton to be involved in the final quarter.
“Overall, there are an awful lot of positives to take from Sunday, but there’s no doubt they will receive a sterner test in the Leinster final.
“I watched Kildare against Westmeath on Sunday and they are a more than decent outfit who will give Dublin their fill of it.
“They are without doubt the closest team to Dublin in Leinster and they have some very strong forwards that will need minding.
“Of course, they showed some defensive frailties in that match which Dublin will be looking to exploit and I would imagine the Dubs will be looking for a degree of revenge after their loss in Newbridge earlier in the year.
“Dublin lacked ruthlessness in front of goal on that occasion but are showing signs that they are back to where they should be in that regard. Scoring 1-17 in one half is some going and you can’t really argue with that,” added Cosgrove.