FOR ALL THE excitement the Ulster and Connacht championships have thrown up in recent weeks, Leinster and Munster will run along expected lines this weekend – barring a seismic shock.
Dublin are bidding to become the first ever side to win nine provincial titles in-a-row when they take on Meath at Croke Park on Sunday.
Priced by bookmakers as 1/50 favourites to see off the Royals, Dublin would better the eight crowns in succession Kerry put together between 1958-65 and 1975-82.
Meath remain the last team to beat Dublin in Leinster. Their shock 5-9 to 0-13 victory in the 2010 semi-final ended Dublin’s ambitions of lifting a sixth Delaney Cup in succession that summer.
The Sky Blues have put together an even more impressive run since then. Their average winning margin in the last eight years in Leinster stands at 13.5 points. They’re looking to extend their winning run in the province to 27 games.
Jim Gavin’s side saw off Louth and Kildare by 26 and 15 points respectively this season and the handicap on Sunday stands at 12 points.
If Meath were to lose by single digits, it would be seen as a positive result for Andy McEntee’s team. The Royals have beaten Dublin just once in their previous 10 attempts, while Gavin’s team have won by an average of 11 points over their last three encounters.
It’s a far cry from the glorious rivalry between the two counties in the 1980s and 90s, which culminated in the four-game saga in 1991.
The clashes that summer 28 years ago gripped the nation as Meath eventually prevailed in the third replay, after the teams drew three games – including two after extra-time.
Croke Park is set to be only half-full this weekend, with a crowd of around 40,000 expected to turn up for the meeting of the old foes.
Meath haven’t reached the Leinster final since 2014 but avoiding a morale-sapping loss is the priority for McEntee’s side ahead of a likely round 4 qualifier. Win that game and they’ll make the Super 8s.
Regardless of how Sunday goes, reaching the last eight will represent major progress for for Meath in year three of the McEntee’s reign.
Dean Rock is expected to make his return to the Dublin matchday panel from a hamstring injury, although he’s unlikely to shift Cormac Costello from the starting XV just yet.
Costello has enjoyed a fine run of form in 2019 and he’s the current top-scorer in the All-Ireland SFC after posting 1-21 in his first two games of the summer.
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Meanwhile in Munster, Kerry are bidding for their seventh provincial crown in succession. Their once great rivals Cork have fallen to Division 3 of the league and their supporters head to Pairc Ui Chaoimh in hope rather than expectation.
Like Dublin-Meath, the Kerry-Cork rivalry has lost its lustre. Of the current Kingdom squad, only James O’Donoghue, Tommy Walsh and Michael Geaney have experienced a Munster SFC loss to the Rebels in the past – and that defeat came way back in 2012.
While Ulster and Connacht brought some welcome excitement back to provincial football in recent weeks, the one-sided nature of Munster and Leinster backs up the argument that the provincial structure is well past its sell-by date.
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