Dublin record ten-point victory over Meath
DUBLIN 0-21 MEATH 0-11
Dublin, as expected, reached their sixth Leinster final on the spin in Croke Park this afternoon.
Their ten-point victory was the product of a workmanlike performance, there was no champagne football on offer.
The game itself was curiously flat – it was almost as if Ireland's loss at the European Championships had left everybody in a deflated state.
Dean Rock top scored for Dublin with ten points – all but one of his efforts came from frees – while Diarmuid Connolly chipped in with four points from play but the fact that Dublin failed to find the net left their fans somewhat deflated.
Indeed, it was the first time since Jim Gavin took charge of Dublin in 2013 that his charges failed to score a goal in the Leinster championship.
Given that Meath were on the receiving end of a 16-point drubbing from Dublin (3-20; 1-10) in their last championship clash in 2014 they will take some comfort from the result, though their season hinges on how they perform in the next round of the qualifiers away to Derry.
And their second half fade-out – they scored just three points after the break – continues a worrying trend of second-half collapses which has characterized their performances this season.
The contest also ended on a downbeat note for them when substitute Joey Wallace was black carded in the fifth minute of injury time.
So Dublin march on but their performances to date suggests that they are building slowly towards the business end of the championship. James McCarthy, Philly McMahon and Ciaran Kilkenny, in particular, had quiet games by their standards.
There are continuing doubts about their defence when run at, though the ineffectiveness of Meath's target man Andrew Tormey meant that Dublin's suspect full back line wasn't put under sustained pressure. Mind you, a ten-point win in a provincial semi-final should not be sneezed at!
Even before the throw-in Meath suffered a setback when substitute Brian Power sustained an injury in the warm-up and had to be stretchered off. Once the contest began it was extraordinarily flat. There was little of the intensity normally associated with Dublin/Meath showdowns.
The first notable clash didn't occur until five minutes before the break when Diarmuid Connolly took umbrage when Graham Reilly's boot caught his neck in a tackle and Connolly chased after him. Soon afterwards Mickey Burke earned a yellow card for flattening Philly McMahon in an off-the-ball challenge.
Overall, Meath would have been reasonably content with their first half effort; they didn't cough up a single goal chance and were still within striking distance of the All-Ireland champions at the break.
Graham Reilly was Dublin's chief tormentor in the first period as he consistently got the better of John Small and when he ran at the defence their only answer was to cough up frees. He also hit the game's first point from play after 54 seconds and the Royals could have had a goal a minute later.
Meath goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke went long with his kick-out and it was brilliantly caught by Harry Rooney. The subsequent long ball was secured by Dalton McDonagh ahead of David Byrne. Under pressure from Stephen Cluxton, McDonagh miscued his first shot and Byrne saved his second effort.
What was surprising was that Meath didn't attempt this long ball approach for the rest of the half despite doubts about the ability of the Dublin full back line under the dropping ball. In fairness, it was at the other end that Dublin malfunctioned in the first quarter hitting five wides in the first nine minutes.
But this wastefulness was partially due to the effectiveness of Meath's ultra defensive system. Only McDonagh and Mickey Newman stayed forward – they were marked by Byrne and Philly McMahon - when Meath didn't have the ball. Dublin found it difficult to find a way through this blanket – kicking six wides in total in the half compared to three for Meath.
While Bernard Brogan scored a point from play after two minutes they had to depend primarily on the immaculate free-taking of Dean Rock for the majority of their scores. He converted four first half frees, though Diarmuid Connolly chipped in with two magnificent efforts from play.
At the other end Mickey Newman missed one but converted three other long range frees while Reilly hit two points from play in what could be described as a decent, if limited, effort from the challengers.
Paul Flynn's point in injury time – his second of the half – gave Dublin a 0-11 to 0-8 advantage at the break. So far, at least, there was no sign of a rout.
Mickey Newman missed two chances for Meath early in the third quarter while his counter-part at the other end Dean Rock hit two points – including his first from play. Newman did make amends with a 45th minute point from play but Dublin stretched their lead to seven with two more pointed frees from Rock.
Gradually Dublin upped the tempo but the Meath defence kept their shape and their discipline. Paul Mannion replaced Brogan after 53 minutes as Dublin – who had introduced Michael Darragh Macauley at half time – began to run their bench.
Meath's attacks became more sporadic and their ebbing confidence suffered another blow ten minutes from the end when Cillian O'Sullivan missed a straight forward 20m free. By then Dublin were eight points clear – despite scoring only three points from play in the half up to that point.
The remainder of the contest was played out in relative silence, though there was an audible groan when it was announced that there was five minutes of injury time to be played. It was that kind of afternoon at headquarters – the damp weather matched everybody's mood!
The attendance was 42,259.
Next month's Leinster final will be a repeat of last year's clash between Dublin and Westmeath which the All-Ireland champions won 2-13 to 0-6. Despite Westmeath's historic win over Kildare in the curtain raiser, there is no sign of Dublin's dominance of the Leinster series ending any time soon.
Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon, J Cooper, D Byrne; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J Small; B Fenton (0-1), D Bastick, P Flynn (0-2), D Connolly (0-4) C Kilkenny; D Rock (0-10, 9f), K McManamon B Brogan (0-3). Subs: MD Macauley for Bastick ht; P Mannion (0-1) for B Brogan 53m; P Andrews for McManamon 58m; E Lowndes for Small 60m; M Fitzsimons for O'Sullivan 64m; C O'Callaghan for Flynn 67m
Meath: P O'Rourke, D Keogan, M Burke, D Smyth; P Harnan, D Tobin, A Douglas; H Rooney, C O'Brien; G Reilly (0-3), C O'Sullivan (0-2, 1f), E Wallace (0-1), D McDonagh, A Tormey, M Newman (0-4, 3f). Subs: R Jones (0-1) for Tormey 53m, S Lavin for Wallace 55m; S Tobin for McDonagh 60m; J Wallace for Reilly 63m; C Flynn Douglas 68m; B McMahon for O'Sullivan 68m