Tonight was less dramatic as Dublin secured a four-point win to allay lingering relegation concerns and keep a mathematical chance of winning the league alive.
Already relegated, this was Meath’s sixth consecutive defeat on their return to the major league. Andy McEntee is believed to be more concerned about next month’s Leinster quarter-finals against Wicklow or Wexford if it ever goes on. But his side did a credible performance, despite the fact that failure to take advantage of any of the three scoring opportunities they created ruined their chance of a Premier League win against Dublin since they were defeated at Croke Park in October 1995.
This was Dublin’s first league game at Donnycarney since March 2010 when they lost to Galway by a goal. But the world of football has changed since then, albeit probably not as dramatically as the world itself.
Stephen Cluxton eclipsed another record by becoming Dublin’s longest-serving player. On May 27, 2001, he made his debut in the Leinster Championship against Longford. At the start of his twentieth season, he surpassed the record of another goalkeeper, Johnny McDonnell, who played for Dublin between July 1919 and May 1938 and played on the Dublin side, which played at Croke Park on the bloody Sunday in November 1920. He had previously been a member of Michael Collins’s squad, who killed a number of British agents.
It was Dean Rock who made headlines early on, scoring a goal after a brief kick-out from Meath went wrong.
The score was of historic significance as the Ballymun ace became Dublin’s all-time top scorer, beating Jimmy Keaveney’s record of 30-402 (492). Rock’s goal brought his record to 17-442 (493). At the final whistle he had increased his lead to eight points after scoring 1-8. He achieved the feat in 95 games compared to 104 for Keaveney.
Meath only kept two players, Cillian O’Sullivan and Shane Walsh, up front but while there was an abundance of bodies in defense they struggled to keep an eye on the attack in Dublin. The home team aimed for their kick-outs and had a lead of 1-5 to 0-3 on the first water break.
The visitors improved in the second quarter but still found it harder to score, but a fit of indiscipline in the Dublin defense allowed Meath to recover as Tomas O’Reilly converted three free kicks on spin to reduce the deficit to four points (1-) 10; 0-9) up to the 30th minute.
There was a defining moment in injury time in the first half when, on Meath’s best move, corner Eoin Harkin – who previously hit a point – was combined with Cathal Hickey to prevail, but the rapidly advancing Cluxton stifled Hickey’s effort.
Meath, however, was rewarded when Dublin gave away another unnecessary free kick and razor-sharp O’Reilly pinned him down to leave three points between the sides (1-10; 0-10) during the break. Significantly, Meath beat Dublin 5-1 in the last ten minutes of half-time.
Although Brian Fenton scored a point in Dublin 14 seconds after the resumption, Meath was freed by a brace from Meath and Shane Walsh’s fourth point made it a one-point game in the 43rd minute. Dublin’s indiscipline and unusual tendency to give the ball away made Meath look on the better side, but failure to take advantage of the scoring opportunities fully underscored her efforts.
They missed another chance in the 46th minute after Cillian O’Sullivan’s Shane Walsh prevailed, but his attempt hit the side netting. Cluxton deserved credit for how quickly he deviated from his line.
After losing Jonny Cooper to injury, Dublin was fortunate enough not to lose John Small, who eluded a second booking for a challenge against Menton. But in the second half of the water break, Dublin was still leading 1: 3 to 0: 14 thanks to two rock frees.
In the final quarter, Dublin essentially played keep ball for long periods of time frustrating Meath and their batting average eventually improved as they beat the Royals 5-4 in the final minutes and won by four, which barely lived up to Meath’s efforts.
Goal scorers: Dublin: D Rock 1-8 (5f), C O’Callaghan C Kilkenny 0-4 (1 m) jeweils 0-4, B Fenton und P Small jeweils 0-2.
Meath: T. O’Reilly 0-6 (6f), S. Walsh 0-4, C. O’Sullivan 0-3 (2f), J. Morris 0-2, B. Menton, E. Harkin, B. Conlon, J. Conlon 0-1.
Dublin: S Cluxton; M. Fitzsimons, D. Byrne, C. Murphy, J. Cooper, J. Small, R. McDaid; B Fenton, EO Conghaile; E Lowndes, C Kilkenny, N Scully; P Klein, C O’Callaghan, D Rock. Subs: E Murchan for Cooper (46), B Howard for O Conghaile (48), C O’Sullivan for J Small (53), A Byrne for P Small (62), S Bugler for Lowndes (70)
Meath: M Brennan; D. Toner, J. McEntee, E. Harkin, C. Hickey, G. McCoy, D. Keogan; B. Menton, R. Jones; S. McEntee, J. Scully, E. Devine; S Walsh, C O’Sullivan, T O’Reilly. Subs: J Morris für Devine (30), B Conlon für McCoy (39), D Campion für Scully (53), J Conlon für Walsh (60), D Lenihan für O’Reilly (66)
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)
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