A STRONG SECOND half performance ensured Dublin beat Meath to win an eighth Leinster title in nine seasons at Croke Park this afternoon.
However, it was not as dominant a performance by Jim Gavin’s men as many predicted, with Meath gaining the upperhand early on and leading 0-9 to 1-4 at half-time, despite Paul Flynn’s early goal giving the home side a significant boost.
Points from Flynn and Ciaran Kilkenny helped Dublin re-establish their dominance after the break, before Paul Mannion capitalised to put the ball in the net, after Kevin O’Brien’s shot was saved by Paddy O’Rourke.
The second goal, scored with ten minutes remaining, effectively sealed Dublin’s victory, with Meath unable to recover thereafter.
A Stephen Bray point had helped Meath to establish an early lead, before a Mannion point and Flynn striking powerfully into the net enabled the home fans to belatedly find their voice.
Nevertheless, Meath continued to pose a considerable threat, and Michael Newman and Eamonn Wallace responded for the Royals, after Diarmuid Connolly and Mannion had extended the Dubs’ advantage.
Three further points from Newman, in addition to a score from Wallace, meant the Royals had a slender two-point advantage at the break.
A free from Brogan and points from Kilkenny and Flynn ensured a rejuvenated Dublin re-took the lead shortly after half-time.
Two more well-taken points from Newman, as well as one from Brian Meade, brought the teams level again, however the Dubs dominated from thereon in.
A Stephen Cluxton free and a double from Mannion gave Dublin a healthy three-point advantage, before the latter’s goal all but won the game for Jim Gavin’s men.
Two points from Dubs substitute Dean Rock proved the icing on the cake in the dying minutes, though Joe Sheridan claimed a consolation for the Royals late on.
Scorers for Dublin: P Mannion 1-4 (2f), P Flynn 1-1, C Kilkenny, S Cluxton (2f, 1 45’) all 0-3, D Rock 0-2 (1f), D Connolly, B Brogan all 0-1.
Scorers for Meath: M Newman 0-8 (6f), E Wallace, S Bray all 0-2, B Meade, J Sheridan all 0-1.
DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton (c); Kevin O’Brien, Rory O’Carroll, John Cooper; James McCarthy, Ger Brennan, Jack McCaffrey; Michael Darragh MacAuley, Cian O’Sullivan; Paul Flynn, Ciaran Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly; Paul Mannion, Eoghan O’Gara, Bernard Brogan.
Substitutes: Kevin McManamon for E O’Gara (46), Denis Bastick for C O’Sullivan (46), Darren Daly for G Brennan (57), Dean Rock for B Brogan (60), Bryan Cullen for D Connolly (65).
MEATH: Paddy O’Rourke; Donal Keogan, Kevin Reilly (c), Bryan Menton; Padraic Harnan, Mickey Burke, Seamus Kenny; Brian Meade, Conor Gillespie; Peadar Byrne, Damien Carroll, Graham Reilly; Eamonn Wallace, Stephen Bray, Michael Newman.
Substitutes: Paddy Gilsenan for P Byrne (41), Ciaran Lenihan for S Kenny (50), Joe Sheridan for D Carroll (52), Andrew Tormey for B Meade (60), Dalton McDonagh for E Wallace (65).
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois)
Additional reporting by Niall Kelly