GAA Leinster Final, Meath GAA News, Dublin GAA News
Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final Sunday, July 22
Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, 4pm
One of the most enduring rivalries in Gaelic Games, Dublin and Meath meet for the 60th time in the Championship on Sunday in Croke Park, where the Leinster title is once again on the line.
It’s a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1894, with Dublin leading in the head-to-head stakes by 32-19 (there have been eight draws) in their 59 meetings to date.
The sides haven’t contested a provincial final since 2001, when the Dubs won by 2-11 to 0-14. Meath’s last Leinster title came in 2010, when they beat Louth in controversial circumstances, while Dublin are seeking a seventh title in eight seasons.
The 2010 Leinster semi-final, which Meath won by 5-9 to 0-13, was a significant milestone in the development of this Dublin team and is considered to be a key building block in the success that followed in the 2011 Championship.
Having conceded five goals and suffered genuine embarrassment against the Royals, manager Pat Gilroy looked at his game-plan anew and came back with a recalibrated, more defensively minded side for a run through the Qualifiers which led all the way to the All-Ireland semi-final.
Having only barely scraped past Louth in the subsequent Leinster final, Meath were blown away by Kildare in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Other than Qualifier wins over Louth and Galway, 2011 was a year to forget for the Royals.
So, following that 2010 meeting, Dublin and Meath seem to have gone in completely different directions.
However, there are real signs of a recovery in Meath after things went from bad to worse with relegation to Division III of the Allianz League in the spring.
That was the low point and things have improved significantly since with an impressive run in Leinster.
Manager Seamus McEnaney has used this impressive run to build and strengthen his side, the win over Wicklow and the two games against Carlow allowing him to give plenty of young players championship game time before unleashing them on Kildare.
With Graham Reilly and Conor Gillespie dominant in midfield, youngsters like Alan Forde and Damien Carroll tore Kildare apart and they produced the biggest shock of the championship so far to win by 1-17 to 1-11.
Speaking this week, Footballer of the Year Alan Brogan admitted the Royals are a completely different proposition in championship football.
"Kildare were the favourites [against Meath] and on paper it looked like Kildare should win, but Meath are a different beast in the championship - and always have been - no matter what their league form was like. They showed that against Kildare."
Dublin’s passage to the final has been far from smooth. Louth were dismissed without a second thought before Wexford once again put it up to the champions, and were it not for some poor shooting from the Models in the final quarter, Pat Gilroy’s side might have been forced through the ‘back door’ once again.
Ultimately, it was the excellent form of Kevin McManamon that guided them off the line, his 1-3 helping to offset the fact that Bernard Brogan had an off day.
With Diarmuid Connolly suspended after his red card the last day, Gilroy might have been tempted to put Eoghan O’Gara back into the attack, but he has instead opted for Michael Darragh Macauley, who is likely to feature much further out the field.
Cian O’Sullivan has also been brought back into the side at wing-back, with Kevin Nolan moving to No. 6 and Ger Brennan losing out in the reshuffle.
Meath have been boosted by the return of Kevin Reilly at full-back and All Star Stephen Bray in the inside forward line, two additions that should strengthen them significantly for what should be a searching test of a relatively young side.
Meath selector Graham Geraghty, a veteran of many battles with the Dubs down through the years, predicted a close contest this week.
"If we're to win this one, on Sunday, we'd have to be in the game with 10 minutes to go," he said.
"After that, with a bit of luck, you wouldn't know what would happen, but I don't think it's going to be a game like 1995, say, 10 points in it (in Dublin's favour). Well, I hope not, anyway. But I think our lads are really up for it. It should be a close enough game."
Meath: D Gallagher; D Keogan, K Reilly, M Burke; D Tobin, S McAnarney, B Menton; C Gillespie, B Meade; A Forde, D Carroll, G Reilly; B Farrell, J Sheridan, S Bray.
Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, R O’Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, K Nolan, C O’Sullivan; E Fennell, D Bastick; P Flynn, A Brogan, B Cullen; B Brogan, MD Macauley, K McManamon.