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Dublin pushed all the way by impressive Meath on Parnell Park return

Dean Rock’s 1-8 brought him past Jimmy Keaveney to become Dublin’s all-time leading scorer.

Dublin's John Small is tackled by David Toner of Meath.
Dublin's John Small is tackled by David Toner of Meath.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Dublin 1-20

Meath 0-19

DUBLIN’S RETURN TO Parnell Park, their first game at the venue in league or championship since 2010, saw them pushed to the pin of their collar by a spirited Meath side as inter-county action returned tonight.

Not many would have predicted such a strong performance from Meath, particularly after they fell six points behind inside the opening 10 minutes.

Dessie Farrell’s side eventually prevailed by four points but the story of the night was the fantastic performance from Andy McEntee’s men. They were composed in possession, had a real scoring threat up front and defended brilliantly as a unit.

The manner by which they troubled Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs will give Dublin’s rivals plenty of hope for later in the season, though Meath were helped by the tighter confines of the Donnycarney venue. 

It’s an indicator of Meath’s good health for the coming campaign while the nature of this display will only add to the talk that Dublin are as vulnerable as they’ve been for at least a decade.

Dessie Farrell’s squad have lost plenty of experience from the squad recently as Bernard Brogan, Darren Daly, Jack McCaffrey and Diarmuid Connolly departed the panel, in addition to Jim Gavin and his management team.

Their hunger following the five-in-a-row has been questioned, while playing at empty stadiums may not get the juices flowing for a team who are used to strutting their stuff in front of tens of thousands at GAA headquarters.

Still they scored 1-20, were without key men like James McCarthy, Paul Mannion and Michael Darragh Macauley, and realistically don’t need to peak until an All-Ireland semi-final at the beginning of December.

No need for alarm bells in the capital just yet.

tempers-flare-between-the-sides Tempers flare between the sides. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

After losing their previous five games, Meath were already relegated heading into today’s tie. Dublin, meanwhile, remain in the hunt for Division 1 honours although they’ve ground still to make up on Galway and Kerry in the table.

On an individual level, Dean Rock became Dublin’s all-time leading scorer in league and championship. His haul of 1-8 brought him to 17-450 from 95 games, bringing him past legendary forward Jimmy Keaveney who contributed 30-402 in 104 games.

Captain Stephen Cluxton returned for his 20th championship campaign to become the longest-serving Dublin player in history, in what was his first game for the county in over 12 months.

Farrell’s team selection drew plenty of interest as he handed a debut to Thomas Davis’s Cian Murphy at corner-back and Robbie McDaid was rewarded for his fine club form with Ballyboden St Enda’s with a slot at wing-back.

Emmet O Conghaile, a regular fringe panellist under Jim Gavin, was a surprising addition at midfield while Eric Lowndes’s positioning at wing-forward was also of note. 

Andy McEntee handed debuts to Eoin Harkin and Cathal Hickey, while Jason Scully made his first start in a much-changed Royals side. 

Rock needed less than four minutes to break Keaveney’s record. Mark Brennan’s miscued short kick-out to Shane McEntee was intercepted by Paddy Small and he set-up his Ballymun clubmate for the easiest finish of his Dublin career.

By the 10th minute Rock had 1-2 to his name and Dublin looked to be cruising as they led by 1-4 to 0-1. Cillian O’Sullivan and Shane Walsh split the posts with efforts, though Meath initially struggled to break beyond Dublin’s half-back line. 

Meath dropped Donal Keogan back into defence as an auxiliary centre-forward, which left Jonny Cooper free for long spells.

Meanwhile, Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny clipped over points for the hosts. Paddy Small was their liveliest attacker in the opening period. He set-up the goal, won another free that Rock scored and sent over two points – including a peach from distance.

But as the half wore on, Meath grew in confidence. They started to mind the ball better and some hard-line running drew frees from the Dublin rearguard. Thomas O’Reilly kicked four frees to finish the half as Meath went in 1-10 to 0-10 behind.

Fenton’s early point signalled Dublin’s intent, but Meath responded with three-in-a-row. Walsh sent a glorious goal chance just wide after he was played in by O’Sullivan, before Rock and O’Reilly traded frees.

John Small, carrying a yellow, was fortunate to stay on the field for a late hit on Bryan Menton. Minutes earlier Dublin lost Jonny Cooper to what appeared to be a foot injury.

Farrell introduced experience in Eoin Murchan, Brian Howard and Cian O’Sullivan in an attempt to see out the game. Rock converted three close range frees and one from play, bringing his tally to 1-8 for the day.

Brian Conlon and Jordan Morris (two) landed impressive scores before time ran out on Meath’s challenge.

Scorers for Dublin: Dean Rock 1-8 (0-5f), Con O’Callaghan and Ciaran Kilkenny (0-1m) 0-4 each, Paddy Small and Brian Fenton 0-2 each.

Scorers for Meath: Thomas O’Reilly 0-6 (0-6f), Shane Walsh 0-4, Cillian O’Sullivan 0-3 (0-2f), Jordan Morris 0-2, Eoin Harkin, Brian Conlon, Bryan Menton, Cathal Hickey 0-1 each.

Dublin

1. Stephen Cluxton (Parnells)

2. Cian Murphy (Thomas Davis)
3. David Byrne (Naomh Olaf)
4. Michael Fitzsimons (Cuala) 

5. John Small (Ballymun Kickhams)
6. Jonny Cooper (Na Fianna)
7. Robert McDaid (Ballyboden St Enda’s)

8. Brian Fenton (Raheny)
9. Emmet Ó Conghaile (Lucan Sarsfields)

10. Niall Scully (Templeogue Synge Street)
11. Ciaran Kilkenny (Castleknock)
12. Eric Lowndes (St Peregrines)

13. Paddy Small (Ballymun Kickhams)
14. Con O’Callaghan (Cuala)
15. Dean Rock (Ballymun Kickhams)

Subs

23. Eoin Murchan (Na Fianna) for Cooper (45)
20. Brian Howard (Raheny) for O Conghaile (48)
26. Cian O’Sullivan (Kilmacud Crokes) for John Small (53)
18. Aaron Byrne (Na Fianna) for Paddy Small (63)
17. Sean Bugler (St Oliver Plunkett’s/ER) for Lowndes (70)

Meath

16. Mark Brennan (O Mahonys)

2. Eoin Harkin (Dunsany)
24. Cathal Hickey (Seneschalstown)
4. David Toner (Curraha)

5. Brían Conlon (Simonstown Gaels)
6. Shane McEntee (St Peter’s Dunboyne)
7. Donal Keoghan (Rathkenny) 

8. Bryan Menton (Donaghmore Ashbourne)
9. Ronan Jones (St Peter’s Dunboyne)

10. Ethan Devine (Na Fianna)
11. Cillian O’Sullivan (Moynalvey)
12. Jason Scully (Oldcastle)

13. Thomas O’Reilly (Wolfe Tones)
20. James McEntee (Curraha)
15. Shane Walsh (Na Fianna)

Subs

22. Jordan Morris (An Obair) for Devine (30)
5. Brian Conlan (Simonstown Gaels) for McCory (39)
23. Darragh Campion (Scrin) for Scully (53)
17. James Conlon (St Colmcilles) for Walsh (61)
14. Donal Lenihan (St Peter’s Dunboyne) for O’Reilly (66)

Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / reports from Parnell Park

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