Kilmacud dominance reinforces great divide in eastern standards
Kilmacud Crokes 2-17 St Peter's Dunboyne 0-7
Geographically Dunboyne lies in very close proximity to Dublin, almost as close as any populated Meath village or town is to the county boundary with the capital. It can be measured in metres.
In football terms, however, the gap in club standards either side of that boundary, and consequently county standards, must be gauged in miles.
It didn't take this evidence, a Leinster quarter-final in Páirc Tailteann, Navan, to establish that.
Meath football has been holed below the waterline for some time now but a 16-point win for Kilmacud Crokes reinforced, in quite chilling fashion, that such a gap is unlikely to be closing any time soon.
Dunboyne are better than this and were the best in Meath this year, comfortably claiming a third Meath senior title with a strong brand of power and athleticism, in tune with what Dublin clubs tend to bring.
But this is a different level, one Meath clubs have repeatedly failed to measure up to.
It's 16 years since a Meath team were last Leinster champions, 14 years since a final was even reached by a Meath club, and you have to go back to the 1970s to find a time the county's champions lowered the colours of their Dublin counterparts.
Kilmacud Crokes could afford to sit out Cian O'Sullivan who arrived from his weekend stag in Madrid - he gets married at Christmas - just 45 minutes before the 1.30 start.
But Crokes have enough defensive nous in players like Cillian O'Shea, Andrew McGowan and the pacey Cian O'Connor to survive a test like this, so O'Sullivan was never part of their plans for the day.
They could also remove Paul Mannion from the action with 10 minutes remaining in the knowledge that the job was done.
Mannion didn't light up this fixture as he had in the Dublin final 13 days later but he still scored 2-6, his two goals in a five-minute spell in the second half killing it completely.
Dunboyne deployed Seamus Lavin to mark him and he stuck rigidly to the task, holding him scoreless from play in the opening period.
But Mannion will always find space no matter what security is around him and he was fouled for three of the seven first-half frees that he or Pat Burke converted for a five-point interval lead, 0-10 to 0-5.
Their comfort in possession stood out. Even when the pressure came on from a Dunboyne tackler they were quickly able to find freedom.
Shane Horan, Shane Cunningham and Callum Pearson were lively in attack in the first half.
One of Mannion's goals was a 40th-minute penalty after he had been fouled at the end of a creative move involving Ross McGowan, Conor Casey and Pearson.
Minutes earlier Casey had been robbed by Ronan Jones at close range when a goal looked inevitable.
That pressure told on Dunboyne and a defensive error was pounced on by Mannion who fired in a second goal for a 2-10 to 0-5 lead.
It was damage limitation at that point for Dunboyne as spirits flagged.
Crokes' joint-manager Robbie Brennan acknowledged Mannion's transfer of form from county to club afterwards, revealing they took him off because of an ongoing hamstring issue.
"What he has done with Dublin he has carried in with his club form, which you don't always get.
"So he's a massive plus for us, a massive plus. He's such a threat for opposition to have to mark him straight away and then we've other guys who step up then if he's held."
Brennan's counterpart Ciaran Byrne expressed disappointment with his team's performance and didn't try to sugar-coat the gap.
"I have to say, we looked at ourselves in that dressing-room after the game and I think, to a man, we probably didn't turn up.
"That's disappointing, something we have to look at and, probably in the wider context of Meath football, why we're not turning up on big occasions. We should have turned up today."
Dunboyne were without Donal Lenihan, who has gone travelling to Asia and will be absent from Meath's 2019 campaign too.
Brennan has played for and managed Dunboyne and lives there so this was, by his own admission a "tricky" one.
"I was getting emotional there talking to them. Because when you are living there, they were so long trying to get there, it was only the third one they have ever won.
"Having tried to get them there myself for five or six years or whatever, it was great to see it."
He is also a brother-in-law of Dunboyne's David Gallagher, who is expected to bring the curtain down on his career following this defeat after coming on as a substitute.
"He's had a wonderful career. That's why it's so emotional, for them and us."
Scorers - Kilmacud Crokes: P Mannion 2-6 (1-0 pen, 0-5fs); P Burke 0-4 (4fs); A McGowan, D Mullin, C O'Dwyer (own-point), C Pearson, C O'Connor, S Williams, C O'Shea all 0-1 each. Dunboyne: S Lowndes 0-2; C Finn, D McEntee (f), R McCarthy, S Lavin, C Lowndes 0-1 each.
Kilmacud Crokes - D Nestor; L Flatman, A McGowan, C O'Connor; C O'Shea, R McGowan, A Jones; C Dias, C Casey; S Horan, S Cunningham, C Pearson; P Burke, P Mannion, D Mullin. Subs: R Ryan for Jones (39), K Dyas for Horan (44), S Williams for Mannion (51), T Fox for Cunningham (53), M Vaughan for Burke (53), N Nolan for Dias (56).
Dunboyne - C Flynn; C O'Dwyer, S Lavin, L Byrne; G McCoy, C Finn, C Lowndes; J Donnelly, S McEntee; N Jones, S Lowndes, S Ryan; R McCarthy, R Jones, D McEntee. Subs: C Doran for Ryan (22), J Scannell for Donnelly (41), D Gallagher for N Jones (46), M Dunne for D McEntee (53), S Comiskey for McCarthy (53), S Moran for O'Dwyer (56).
REF - M Deegan (Laois).