Tuesday 15 October 2019

'We needed to be a lot better than we were, we needed to be more clinical in front of goal' - McEntee

Andy McEntee remonstrates with the referee during yesterday’s Leinster SFC final in Croke Park. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Andy McEntee remonstrates with the referee during yesterday’s Leinster SFC final in Croke Park. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Andy McEntee wasn't going to be drawn into a debate about the state of Leinster football. Or, more accurately, how far Dublin are ahead of the rest. It wasn't, he insisted, the time or the place.

"Let's be fair about this, I'm not going to start to talk about... we're after getting a bit of a drubbing there so I don't think it's the time for me to start pontificating about Leinster football or the state of football," he said.

The Meath manager had enough to digest with his own county's performance without getting into the ills of the entire province.

His side have put down a year of significant progress. Promotion to Division 1 was secured and they are still just a game away from a 'Super 8s' berth.

However, in Croke Park yesterday they walked into the propellers of a team who have been around the big show for a long time. Meath swam with the sharks and got devoured.

Dublin stretched for home in the second-half to leave a scoreline that was an accurate reflection of their superiority.

Troubled

Just twice under Jim Gavin have Dublin failed to win a Leinster Championship game by double figures and they were never troubled here, but the core of McEntee's frustration ebbed from their own failings.

His side kicked 12 wides, hit the post with two more point attempts and dropped four short and into the arms of Stephen Cluxton.

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"I think everybody is hugely disappointed," said the Meath boss.

"There was a huge gap in the scoreline at the end of the day. We needed to be a lot better than we were, we needed to be a lot more clinical in front of goals if we were going to give ourselves any sort of a chance of competing and that's probably the department that let us down most today.

"We needed to be able to put Dublin under pressure and it's fair to say we didn't really manage that at any stage of the game. We had more shots at goal in the first-half than they had - we had 11, they had nine.

"But we had one score on the board at the end of 35 or 36 minutes of play and that says a lot really."

Meath were just four down at the break, but had managed a single point in the opening half through joint captain Bryan Menton, with that score coming in the 33rd minute.

By the time Ben Brennan missed his third free just after the break he was withdrawn, but he wasn't alone in struggling up front. Meath managed just four points in the game, the lowest tally in a Leinster final since Laois hit the same total in the 1985 decider. And while they competed gamely at the back for periods of the game it was finger in the dam stuff.

Dean Rock played 20 minutes and finished as Dublin's top scorer with 0-4, as the champions went through the gears in the final quarter. A six-point lead on the 50-minute mark turned into a 16-point hammering in a game that also saw Paul Mannion hit the post with a penalty.

"It's a Leinster final and we're just delighted to get the win today," Jim Gavin said.

"The aim was to get a performance and hopefully that would bring us the result. The first-half panned out the way we thought it would. We looked at Meath coming into the game and they had an outstanding league, they're a Division 1 side now.

"They played here a couple of (months) back against Donegal - that was a very impressive performance by them. It was nip and tuck in the first-half. We were probably a bit more clinical than they were - 15 odd shots in the second-half and we got a high percentage of them, maybe 13.

"I don't think the score reflected their shooting prowess. They hit the post and they kicked some wides they'll be disappointed with. But from our perspective, we're just happy we have our hands on the Delaney trophy."

With his tongue firmly placed in his cheek, McEntee acknowledged that Meath 'won' the yellow card count, picking up six yellows to none for Dublin and hinted at a level of unhappiness with Sean Hurson's officiating.

"Six-zero, was it? Ah, but Dublin aren't physical so that doesn't matter. Look I didn't see it (an incident that saw Ben Brennan go down off the ball in the first-half), but certainly some of the people around me seemed to see it and it wasn't picked up."

It would have mattered little. Dublin are idle now until the weekend of July 13/14 when they'll face Cork, or the team that beats them, in their 'home' Croke Park Super 8s match. Meath are out a week earlier and are still just a win away from a spot in the last eight of the Championship.

Can they recover in time?

"I don't know is the answer. We haven't been in this position before. It'll be interesting to see how fellas react," said McEntee.

"We were one game away from the Super 8s last week, we're one game away from it this week. Ultimately not a whole pile has changed. It will be a fair test of resolve and a fair test of character to come back from a defeat like that."

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