DUBLIN BECAME THE first inter-county side to complete a provincial nine-in-a-row, collecting the 58th Leinster title in their history after a 16-point defeat of Meath.
They had just five points on the board following a lacklustre opening half but outscored Meath by 1-12 to 0-3 after the break to take the win in convincing fashion.
The Royals paid the price for some deplorable shooting over the 70 minutes. They scored just three from open play and shot 12 wides, hit the post twice and dropped four short. Such was their inability to hit the target, each Meath score in the second-half was greeted with a sarcastic cheer from Hill 16.
Dublin were sloppy and lethargic at times, operating well below their best. Outside of Jack McCaffrey, Philly McMahon, Cian O’Sullivan, Con O’Callaghan and Paul Mannion, not too many of Jim Gavin’s starters played near their potential.
Meath bravely went man-on-man all over the field and Andy McEntee’s side had the athletes to track Dublin’s runners up until the 50th minute. Donal Keogan performed brilliantly on Ciaran Kilkenny, who endured one of his quieter days in the blue jersey.
The Royals badly ran out of steam from that point as Dublin ran in their veterans off the bench and their superior fitness levels began to tell.
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Dublin arrived into their first championship meeting with their old rivals since 2016 as unbackable 1/50 favourites. The handicap was set at 12 points and they comfortably beat it in the end, bringing their combined winning margin in Leinster to 57 points after three games.
Paul Mannion hits his penalty off the post.
Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO
The 47, 0267 crowd at HQ was bigger than expected, although still well below the 62,660 that attended the 2014 decider between these counties, or the 54,485 in 2013.
Worryingly for Dublin, James McCarthy limped off with what appeared to be a knee injury after 32 minutes. His fellow Ballymun man Dean Rock made his return from a hamstring injury as a 52nd-minute substitute.
He finished with 0-4 from five shots after an impressive 20-minute cameo, while providing the assist for Con O’Callaghan’s late green flag.
McMahon was a late addition to the team in Michael Darragh Macauley’s place for his first competitive start since last year’s All-Ireland final.
His presence meant Dublin had four survivors at the back from the shock loss to Meath in 2010 when they conceded five goals: Stephen Cluxton, Mick Fitzsimons, McMahon and Cian O’Sullivan. Meath didn’t even manage five points on this occasion.
Meath centre-forward Bryan McMahon played in a deep role, which gave Dublin O’Sullivan as a spare man in front of his full-back line. The 31-year-old’s presence cut out Meath’s option of an early kick-pass inside, which greatly hampered their attacking play.
Jack McCaffrey takes on Andrew Colgan and Conor McGill.
Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO
It was a curious opening half. If you’d told McEntee before the game his side would only score once in the first period, he’d have been fearing the worst. But Meath went in just four behind after largely competing well with the All-Ireland champions by matching up well all over the field.
The Royals were extremely wasteful in the first period, converting just one of their 12 shots at the posts. Graham Reilly – a late addition to the starting team – was responsible for three wides while Ben Brennan hit the post, dropped one short and sent a free wide. Both were replaced by the 40th minute.
Dublin, left three goalscoring chances behind them in the early stages but they did have a few bright moments. McCaffrey sized up Ben Brennan and burned him twice in the space of 90 seconds. He kicked a point and was then blocked down for a 45 that Cormac Costello converted.
John Small runs at Meath.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
McCarthy won a penalty before his injury-enforced departure. Paul Mannion cracked his low effort off the inside of the post and it bounced back into play. Bryan Menton finally got Meath’s first score in the 32nd minute, ensuring they avoid the ignominy of failing to score in a half of football.
The underdogs doubled their tally by the 44th minute with Newman’s 14m free. But they started the second period with a further five wides, which killed off any chances of a shock victory.
Dublin edged further clear through Costello’s frees and then Rock grabbed four points upon his introduction. He sent O’Callaghan through for his 68th-minute goal and drilled a goal chance of his own narrowly wide minutes later.
Scorers for Dublin: Dean Rock 0-4 (0-1f), Cormac Costello 0-3 (0-1 45, 0-2f), Con O’Callaghan 1-0, Paul Mannion 0-3, Jack McCaffrey 0-2, Philly McMahon, Paddy Andrews, Ciaran Kilkenny, Brian Fenton and Brian Howard 0-1 each.
Scorers for Meath: Michael Newman 0-3 (0-1f), Bryan Menton 0-1.
1. Stephen Cluxton (Parnells)
3. Michael Fitzsimons (Cuala)
20. Philly McMahon (Ballymun Kickhams)
2. David Byrne (Naomh Olaf)
4. Jack McCaffrey (Clontarf)
6. Cian O’Sullivan (Kilmacud Crokes)
7. John Small (Ballymun Kickhams)
8. Brian Fenton (Raheny)
20. James McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams)
10. Niall Scully (Templeogue Synge Street)
13. Ciarán Kilkenny (Castleknock)
12. Brian Howard (Raheny)
14. Paul Mannion (Kilmacud Crokes)
15. Con O’Callaghan (Cuala)
11. Cormac Costello (Whitehall Colmcille)
9. Michael Darragh Macauley (Ballyboden St Endas) for McCarthy (32, inj)
25. Dean Rock (Ballymun Kickhams) for Howard (52)
21. Kevin McManamon (St Judes) for Costello (58)
26. Paddy Small (Ballymun Kickhams) for Kilkenny (62)
17. Paddy Andrews (St Brigid’s) for Paddy Small (65, inj)
23. Rory O’Carroll (Kilmacud Crokes) for McCaffrey (68)
1. Andrew Colgan (Donaghmore Ashbourne)
3. Conor McGill (Ratoath)
4. Shane Gallagher (Simonstown Gaels)
2. Seamus Lavin (St Peter’s, Dunboyne)
12. James McEntee (Curraha)
5. Donal Keogan (Rathkenny)
6. Ronan Ryan (Drum Shamhradh)
8. Bryan Menton (Donaghmore Ashbourne)
20. Shane McEntee (St Peter’s, Dunboyne)
13. Cillian O’Sullivan (Moynalvey)
11. Bryan McMahon (Ratoath)
19. Graham Reilly (St Colmcilles)
10. Ben Brennan (St Colmcilles)
14. Michael Newman (Kilmainham)
15. James Conlon (St Colmcilles)
18. Sean Tobin (Simonstown Gaels) for Brennan (38)
23. Ethan Devine (Na Fianna) for Reilly (40)
17 Thomas O’Reilly (Wolfetones) for Conlon (54)
22. Barry Dardis (Drum Shamhradh) for Shane McEntee (58)
21. Sean Curran (Domhnach Mor Cill Dheaglain) for Gallagher (65)
26. Thomas McGovern (Domhnach Mor Cill Dheaglain) for McMahon (65)
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).
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