Preview Of Leinster Final 2014

Sunday, July 20
Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final
Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, 2pm


Dublin and Meath meet in the Leinster final for the third year running at Croke Park this Sunday, where the Dubs are bidding for a fourth successive provincial title and their ninth in 10 years.

Dublin’s record in their provincial championship is quite remarkable, with their only defeat in the competition since 2005 coming against Meath in the 2010 semi-final, a 5-9 to 0-13 defeat under Pat Gilroy which arguably set in motion the changes that led to their re-emergence as the current pre-eminent power on the national stage.

While Dublin have torched nearly all before them in the Leinster Championship under Jim Gavin – their average winning margin in the four provincial games during his reign excluding the last year’s clash with Meath is 15 points – they struggled to a 2-15 to 0-14 win over the Royals last year and sugar-coated the win their trademark late kick, as Paul Mannion’s 69th minute goal finally ending the game as a contest.

Dublin v Meath
Last Five Championship Clashes
2013: Dublin 2-15 Meath 0-14
2012: Dublin 2-13 Meath 1-13
2010: Meath 5-9 Dublin 0-13
2009: Dublin 0-14 Meath 0-12
2007: Dublin 0-16 Meath 0-12 (Rep)

Look through the record books and, that bizarre semi-final in 2010 aside, Dublin-Meath contests are nearly always close. In the 2012 Leinster final, Dublin won by a goal and in 2009 and ’07 their winning margin was two and four points respectively.

When you consider that Dublin have handed out 16-point beatings to Wexford, Kildare and Westmeath over the last two campaigns, Meath’s ability to hold their own against their great rivals is particularly impressive.

“It’s going to be a traditional Dublin-Meath game,” Dublin manager Gavin says. “They’re always good, honest, hard games of football. Both teams will really go hard at it, as we saw last year. So, either team can win this game.”

Meath arrive here after two hugely impressive performances, beating Carlow by 7-13 to 0-6 and Kildare by 2-16 to 0-17 in the earlier rounds. The manner of their semi-final win over Kildare really caught the eye, especially as they were battling an injury crisis before the game. Joey Wallace and Dalton McDonagh came into their attack and tormented the Kildare full-back line, while Stephen Bray and Andrew Tormey were also hugely impressive up front.

While midfielder Conor Gillespie and attacker Eamonn Wallace are ruled out with long-term knee injuries, Mickey Newman’s return from a hamstring injury is a huge boost. His return in place of McDonagh is the only change from the semi-final.

Meath will have to go for goals early and often if they are to have any chance of beating Dublin (a la Kerry in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final), and Newman is one of the best goal-scoring forwards in the country, so he could play a vital role in Croke Park.

Meath manager Mick O’Dowd has spoken this week of the connection that has been re-established between his team and the Royal County support following a number of impressive showings.

“I’d say there’s a buzz around the county again. And I’m sure expectations have risen as our performances have risen,” he said this week. “So I suppose Meath people coming into this year were enthused by the team. I’d say we had a solid league. And I’d say people were nervous coming into the Kildare game, because of our injury crisis. But then happy after. Now it comes to Meath/Dublin. And Meath people always love that game. It’s close to the heart.”

Dublin’s march to the Leinster final has been typically serene. Although Laois and Wexford put it up to them for long periods in the earlier rounds, their power and incredible options from the bench have always proven telling in the end.

Against Wexford, they led by four at the break and won by 16 in the end, with 1-9 of their tally coming from players unleashed off the bench.

While Gavin insists he places little emphasis on who makes the starting XV – “if we had our way, we’d name the team alphabetically,” he said this week – Cormac Costello hit 1-5 off the bench against Wexford and his claims on a starting jersey should be almost impossible to ignore.

Bernard Brogan missed the Wexford game with a hamstring injury and may come back into the full-forward line in place of Dean Rock, who was replaced by Costello at half-time the last day having failed to score from play. Ger Brennan is still recovering from ankle surgery and won’t be involved.

The expectation is that, just like last year, with Kevin Reilly marshalling their full-back line, Damien Carroll probing from the middle third and Stephen Bray leading a very talented inside forward line, Meath will have enough quality to put it up to Dublin for much of the game, but that the Dubs’ greater strength-in-depth will win out in the end.

Victory would give Dublin their fourth successive Leinster title and their 53rd in total, while Meath are aiming for their first since 2010 and their 22nd overall. (Gaa.ie)

MEATH: P O’Rourke; E Harrington, K Reilly, B Menton; P Harnan, D Keogan, D Tobin; B Meade, S O’Rourke; D Carroll, B McMahon, A Tormey; G Reilly, S Bray, M Newman.

DUBLIN: TBC

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