Meath cannot be judged on Dublin defeat as Louth play hosts in south Monaghan

Louth sat back against Dublin. They may well do the same against Meath. It could get ugly if The Royals opt to mirror them away from the vast reaches of Croke Park.

Meath manager Colm O'Rourke
Meath manager Colm O'Rourke
All-Ireland Group Stage: Group Four Round One
Louth v Meath (Inniskeen, 5:30pm)

All the talk is about Louth. Second spot in this group is up for grabs if Monaghan’s display in Killarney is anything to go off. Meath have been written off in some quarters.

If Dublin are the measure then perhaps that is justified. Louth were brilliant in the Leinster final, while The Royals wilted at the same Croke Park they landed the Tailteann Cup at just months before.

The approaches contrasted even though both sat back. Meath looked to hit long and early on the break. They coughed up possession, they were wasteful, they were punished.

Louth were pragmatic. They were patient. They treated the ball like an unboiled egg at times.

Donegal v Louth
Donegal’s Jeaic Mac Ceallbhui scrambles in his side's goal in Ballyshannon PICTURE: MARGARET McLAUGHLIN (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

Ironically, Meath’s approach is more likely to yield a win, but equally a hefty defeat when the error count clocks up as it always will when a decent team is outclassed by quality.

Inniskeen, a fine ground in its own right, won’t have the vast, open spaces of Croke Park. Louth’s Tommy Durnin can attest to that on his own club’s pitch.

This is unlikely to be the highest scoring encounter you’ve ever seen.

The league match between the sides was won by Meath, 1-11 to 1-09 in Navan. The Royals victory over Down last year cannot be discarded. They have forward prowess in abundance.

Mathew Costello is a huge goal threat, while Eoghan Frayne has shown real signs of maturity to date. Jordan Morris of the Kingscourt club in Cavan is another mercurial talent, electric at his best.

Taking that into consideration, Ger Brennan may well opt to stick to a rigid defensive system that Louth looked so comfortable in against Dublin.

dublins ger brennan pic seamus loughran
Ger Brennan won All-Ireland with Dublin in 2013 and 2015 (Seamus Loughran)

In racking up 6-17 against Fermanagh in the league, they have shown they are adaptable in their approach. They will have to be this weekend. Waves of attacks won’t come like they did two weeks ago. That presents its own challenge.

Even if it’s tight and tense, you’d expect both teams to press at various stages. The battle at midfield on long kickouts could prove key.

All-Ireland Group 2 Round One
Dublin v Roscommon (Croke Park, 5pm, live on GAAGO)

Roscommon have tried to take Dublin head on before. Six years ago, they ventured east to take on a Dublin side guaranteed Super 8 progression. Prime time to have a cut.

Instead, Dublin won by 14. Bernard Brogan made a miraculous return from an ACL injury. Eoghan O’Gara was at the double having struggled for minutes all year.

In 2018 it was a 14-point beating. In 2019 it was 18.

Dublin are too good to be anyone’s bogey team, but they’ve always had The Rossies’ number.

Then last year, we had six minutes, memorable only for how much the purist in you tries to forget it. Possession for possession sake you’d think, but a draw said otherwise.

Roscommon manager Davy Burke (left) leads his side into a date with his native Kildare on Sunday
Roscommon manager Davy Burke (left) leads his side into a date with Dublin.

What Davy Burke would do for a similar result this weekend. He’s pragmatic, cynical even. It’s a results business, and his side haven’t had enough of those in 2024.

For Dessie Farrell, he’d like to think the poor display against Louth blew off a few cobwebs. The Wee County were everything that The Dubs normally are. Numbers, pace, the right decision at the right time. Trust the process. Nothing crazy.

Dublin were less than impressive, but even though Louth flirted with victory, it always felt a long shot. Leinster finals are for winning, and only one name goes on the cup.

Back at HQ, they’ll be hurting. Perfection is all that’s enough.

Roscommon do have a goal threat, and will take good solace in Louth’s two goals the last day out. In Daire Cregg, they have a man on form, but just how do they set up?

The damage limitation approach has seen many’s a team run out of legs coming down the stretch. Burke’s side didn’t in 2023, but you feel Dessie Farrell will have learned more from that encounter than anyone.

A league final defeat and a decent Leinster campaign at best, it’s time The Dubs made a statement of intent.