GAA Football

'Player concerns but Dublin should still have enough to cope with new Ulster champions'

Dublin keeper Stephen Cluxton. Picture by Seamus Loughran.

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 3-21 Meath 0-9

Long after Dublin had demolished Meath on Saturday, Dessie Farrell was presented with his toughest challenge of the entire evening, trying to play it all down to the media.

"Topsy turvy," was how the Dublin manager described his team's displays so far in the Championship though the reality is that it's business as usual for the all conquering Dubs.

Jim Gavin's crew breezed through Leinster with 57 points to spare in 2019, with 60 points to spare in 2018 and 52 in 2017.

Farrell's group were 54 points to the good so there's no sign of any slippage.

History suggests these patterns will drop off in the All-Ireland semi-finals - we're thinking of the 2014 (loss to Donegal), 2015 (draw with Mayo) and 2016 (narrow defeat of Kerry) games in particular - though whether the new Ulster champions can actually take down the Sam Maguire Cup holders on Saturday week is debatable.

Dublin will be without a key impact sub in Cormac Costello following his straight red card against Meath while Jonny Cooper (foot) could also be in trouble.

Throw in Jack McCaffrey's absence and that's three key players.

"It's a worrying time when anybody pulls up at this stage because the games are coming thick and fast," said Farrell of Cooper's half-time withdrawal.

"To get recovered and get yourself back to full fitness, there isn't much of a window there."

All the indicators are that Dublin possess a strong enough panel to cope.

Robbie McDaid has been an ever present since the restart, replacing McCaffrey while Sean Bugler is a bright addition in attack, his 23rd minute goal effectively deciding Saturday's contest as Dublin led 2-8 to 0-2 at that stage.

The 21-point win was five better than last year's Leinster final demolition of the same team.

Farrell kicked to touch when hit with the 'Is the Leinster championship dead?' question.

"Meath are definitely a coming side and I think they've made great strides, they'll be disappointed with their performance, they're much better than that and I expect to see some of that tradition and rivalry that has been between the two counties emerge again in the very near future," said Farrell.

He may be the only one expecting that because this was as bad as it gets for Meath, beaten in every sector of the field and only tagging on a few late scores when Dublin had run in all their subs and lowered the intensity.

That's the challenge new for their next opponents, to match the intensity that Dublin players like Brian Fenton, Ciaran Kilkenny and Con O'Callaghan consistently deliver and for 70-plus minutes.

Dean Rock is another of Dublin's go-to guys and struck 1-7 for them including the eighth minute goal that got the punishment under way.

Stephen Cluxton kept another clean sheet and was terrific with his restarts, finding a blue shirt with 12 of his 15 kick-outs.

It was his long kick over the Meath press that led to Rock's goal, O'Callaghan fielding superbly and creating the opening.

At the other end, Dublin pressured Marcus Brennan into a series of errors with 10 of Meath's kick-outs going astray.

The Royals butchered a couple of early goal chances too and landed several point attempts short. Would it have been different if they'd tucked those goal chances away?

"I think that would be a little bit naive," said Meath manager Andy McEntee.

"Maybe it knocked us back a bit but Dublin had started the game at a good pace too.

"We're clutching at straws if we think those two goals might have led to a different outcome, it might have given us a bit of confidence, it's hard to know."

Dublin: S Cluxton; E Murchan, M Fitzsimons, D Byrne; J Cooper, J Small (0-1), R McDaid; J McCarthy, B Fenton; N Scully (1-1), C Kilkenny (0-4), S Bugler (1-2); P Small (0-3, 2m), C O'Callaghan (0-2), D Rock (1-7, 5f, 1 45).

Subs: B Howard for Cooper h/t, P Mannion (0-1, 1f) for Small 42, E Lowndes for J Small 53, C Costello for O'Callaghan 59, K McManamon for Kilkenny 65.

Meath: M Brennan; R Ryan, C McGill, D Toner; S Lavin, D Keogan, M Costello; B Menton (0-1), R Jones; B McMahon, C O'Sullivan (0-1), S McEntee; T O'Reilly (0-1, 1f), S Walsh, J Morris (0-4, 1f).

Subs: C Hickey for Toner 44, E Harkin for McGill 44, E Devine for Costello 46, J Scully (0-1) for McMahon 52, J Wallace (0-1, 1m) for O'Reilly 53.

Ref: D O'Mahoney (Tipperary).

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GAA Football