THE result that everyone expected, but surely not by this ghastly margin? Dublin made it a record ten Leinster SFC titles on the bounce with a grisly 21-point demolition of a hapless Meath in Croke Park tonight.
ust as well, for Royal fans watching from behind their couches, that this was at a deserted HQ. To witness this in the flesh would have been beyond cruel.
And so predictably, serenely, Dublin march on to an All-Ireland semi-final against the Ulster champions, either Cavan or (more likely) Donegal.
The only negative to this latest humbling of their fallen rival was the straight red card brandished to sub Cormac Costello, eight minutes after his 59th minute introduction. Referee Derek O’Mahoney imposed the ultimate sanction after consulting one of his linesmen and, unless Costello can produce exonerating video evidence, he will miss out on the last four.
The evening had begun with a moving ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. And, for a few beguiling minutes at the start of the game, there were a couple of hints that Meath might mark this historic night with something special.
It was all a mirage.
In the opening minute, Cillian O’Sullivan’s penetrating incursion created a possible chance … but after passing to Bryan McMahon, the Meath No 11 was bottled up and unable to pull the trigger, Bryan Menton at least delivering some reward with a point.
Dublin quickly riposted with a Paddy Small ‘mark’ and a Dean Rock free before we had rarest occurrence, James McCarth being turned over the tackle as the prelude to a Jordan Morris point.
Thus, the game was tied at 0-2 apiece after five minutes.
Half an hour later, instead of a half-time cuppa, the shellshocked Royals were in need of smelling salts, reeling from the concession of an unanswered 2-10 from Dublin.
This was a massacre, initiated by an eighth minute Rock goal that summed up Dublin’s total dominance and Meath’s defensive disarray.
Stephen Cluxton went long from the kickout, Con O’Callaghan ghosted out to midfield to make the catch, he quickly played in Niall Scully who in turn fed Brian Fenton, and his offloaded was smartly finished by Dublin’s all-time record scorer. It was all so simple; too simple.
The procession that followed contained several recurring features. Cluxton had just five first half kickouts; he successfully went long with three of them directly to O’Callaghan.
At the other end, Dublin applied a big squeeze on Mark Brennan’s kickouts and the Meath ‘keeper buckled more than once, losing seven out of 18 before the break.
All of this ensured an abundance of Dublin possession and, for the most part, they used it with trademark precision – albeit facilitated by a shocking lack of focus or even fight from their opponents.
Amid the near constant one-way traffic, Menton had the glimpse of a goal chance but was unable to get a shot off and then, under pressure, eventually hooked his point attempt wide.
Meanwhile, the Dublin scoreboard kept ticking over serenely and Seán Bugler’s 23rd minute goal left them 2-8 to 0-2 clear, the last pretence of a contest long since evaporated.
Again it was far too straight-forward for Andy McEntee’s liking. After a patient Dublin build-up, Bugler took possession some 35 metres out and injected pace into the move, picking out Robbie McDaid close to goal and fisting his return pass to the net.
Four more Dublin points made it 2-12 to 0-2 and a 16-point game at the interval – the same margin that separated the sides in last year’s provincial decider. At least Meath optimists could point out that they had doubled their first half account last year, when they trailed 0-5 to 0-1 at the break.
They might even argue that they nearly held their own in the second half scoring stakes, with Dublin adding nine points to Meath’s additional seven before Niall Scully applied some further punishment in garbage time, fisting home Dublin’s third goal on the rebound after Kevin McManamon’s shot on the run was saved by Brennan.
Dublin: D Rock 1-7 (5f, 1 ’45), S Bugler 1-2, C Kilkenny 0-4, N Scully 1-1, P Small 0-3 (2m), C O’Callaghan 0-2, J Small, P Mannion (f) 0-1 each.
Meath: J Morris 0-4 (1f), B Menton, T O’Reilly (f), C O’Sullivan, J Scully, J Wallace (m) 0-1 each.
DUBLIN – S Cluxton; J Cooper, M Fitzsimons, D Byrne; E Murchan, R McDaid, J Small; B Fenton, J McCarthy; N Scully, C Kilkenny, S Bugler; P Small, C O’Callaghan, D Rock. Subs: B Howard for Cooper (ht), P Mannion for P 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, S Lavin; D Toner, D Keogan, M Costello; B Menton, R Jones; C O’Sullivan, B McMahon, S McEntee; J Morris, S Walsh, T O’Reilly. Subs: C Hickey for Toner (44), E Harkin for McGill (44), E Devine for Costello (inj 46), J Scully for McMahon (52), J Wallace for O’Reilly (53).
REFEREE: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary)