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Dublin: 7°C Saturday 16 January 2021

Dublin v Meath, All-Ireland MFC final match guide

Before the main event on Sunday, the minors of Dublin and Meath will do battle for the Tom Markham Cup. Here’s your match guide.

Shane Carthy of Dublin goes up to challenge Meath's Pádraic Harnan for a ball.
Shane Carthy of Dublin goes up to challenge Meath's Pádraic Harnan for a ball.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Sunday, Croke Park, 1.15pm (Referee: Barry Cassidy, Derry)

Latest from the medics and management… Meath named their starting XV on Wednesday evening. Manager Andy McEntee makes just one change and a handful of positional switches from the side which snatched a last-minute win against Mayo in the semi-finals.

Conor Carton is the man to miss out as Navan O’Mahonys defender Ruairí Ó Coileáin returns to the Royal defence at corner-back. Ó Coileáin was a regular starter during the league and Leinster Championship but missed out on the quarter-final win against Tyrone with an illness and then had to make do with a cameo role as a second-half substitute against Mayo.

His return sees Declan Smyth of Dunsany bumped up to the half-back line where he is joined by captain Pádraic Harnan, who is named at centre back rather than in his usual midfield spot. Shane McEntee, son of manager Andy, joins Adam Flanagan in the middle with an unchanged front six returning to spearhead the Royal attack.

Meath (MFC v Dublin): Robert Burlingham; Ruairí O Coileáin, Brian Power, Shane Gallagher; Declan Smyth, Pádraic Harnan (c), Seamus Lavin; Shane McEntee, Adam Flanagan; Cillian O’Sullivan, Jason Daly, James McEntee; Barry Dardis, Fiachra Ward, Stephan Coogan.

Dublin have yet to name their team but with no injury worries, manager Dessie Farrell has a full-strength squad at his disposal.

Checking the odds… The bookmakers have planted themselves firmly in the Dublin camp and are going as short as 1/10 in some places on captain David Byrne lifting the Tom Markham Cup on Sunday afternoon. In the handicap, that’s the equivalent of a six-point spread between the teams which should appeal if you fancy the Royals to run them close.

Clues from the form guide… As 2011′s beaten All-Ireland finalists Dublin were seen as strong contenders before the first ball was kicked in anger, promise which they backed up with a series of comfortable wins in the Leinster Championship. Although there are plenty of new faces in the panel, Dessie Farrell can call on five young men who already have All-Ireland final experience under their belt: Eric Lowndes and Cormac Costello both started against Tipperary last September while David Campbell, David Byrne and Niall Scully all came off the bench.

Meath too have managed to retain a small core of players from last year’s squad, runners-up to Dublin in Leinster and then beaten by eventual champions Tipperary in the All-Ireland quarter-finals. Goalkeeper Robert Burlingham, captain Pádraic Harnan, midfielder Adam Flanagan and wing-forward Cian O’Sullivan all start on Sunday.

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The most obvious form clues should come from the Leinster final between the two sides, a game Dublin won by a comfortable 12-point margin thanks in no small part to an imperious display from star man Cormac Costello who weighed in with an individual haul of 3-4. But while the Meath side which returns to the scene of defeat on Sunday is largely the same, they have learned a lot in the intervening period and look like a team that is starting to click at the right time.

Andy McEntee will no doubt be concerned by the late goals needed beat both Tyrone and Mayo, as he will by the eight-point advantage they allowed Mayo to open up, a luxury they will not be able to afford Dublin this weekend.

If Dublin are looking for areas which need to be worked on this week, they can look no further than a nervy second-half spell in their own semi-final win against Kerry. After streaking into the lead the Dubs switched off and let Kerry peg them back to two points, a turnaround which could have had dire consequences had David Byrne not been on the line to flick away a certain goal. Meath have shown that they don’t know when to quit so it’s vital that if Dublin do get ahead, they keep their foot on the pedal.

Gazing into the crystal ball… Bookmaker-driven talk of a blowout Dublin win seems slightly naive, and there is plenty in Meath’s last two outings against fancied Tyrone and Mayo sides to suggest that they will be much more organised and resolute on Sunday.

Having experienced first-hand the damage that Cormac Costello can do when in full flight, Andy McEntee will be anxious to keep Dublin’s star man as quiet as possible this time around. Achieve that much though and there are still plenty of young blues who can do damage, not least Shane Cunningham and Conor McHugh.

Meath have left no stone unturned since losing the Leinster final, working with members of the Donegal senior set-up to shore up their defence and even bringing in legendary Kilkenny manager Brian Cody to give a motivational talk last weekend.

A captain’s performance from Harnan, wherever he lines out, will be key to their chances as will the individual match-ups in the Royal forward line. Barry Dardis and Fiachra Ward have put themselves about all summer and need to step up again to have any joy against a usually resilient Dublin rearguard.

Verdict… Dublin

The story so far: the Dublin and Meath minors’ paths to the final

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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