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'Everyone has a plan until they get a punch on the nose' - 12 goals in 2 games for buoyant Meath attack

The Royals face Dublin in the Leinster final with their 16-point defeat in 2019 still fresh in the memory.

Cillian O'Sullivan shot 1-1 for Meath against Kildare.
Cillian O'Sullivan shot 1-1 for Meath against Kildare.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SO DUBLIN AND Meath will renew acquintances in the Leinster football final, 18 months on from last year’s 1-17 to 0-4 scoreline in the provincial decider.

At half-time in yesterday’s semi-final, Meath trailed Kildare by six points and another meeting with Dublin this season looked highly unlikely.

But Meath’s firepower has been a feature of the championship so far. They put 7-14 past Wicklow a week earlier and shot 5-5 in the second-half against the Lilywhites to seal a return to the final.

Incidentally, the last time Meath beat Dublin in 2010, they put up 5-9 in Croke Park.

So are they better equipped to deal with the All-Ireland champions this time around?

“I think that’s up for other people to decide to be perfectly honest, ask me after the game next week I suppose and I’ll tell you,” replied Andy McEntee.

“I’m not being smart but it’s hard to know. Look, nobody has managed to beat them in six years so that’s everybody’s aim but nobody has achieved it.”

In Shane Walsh, Jordan Morris and Thomas O’Reilly they’ve a dangerous full-forward trio. The Royals had an entirely different inside line when they scored just four of their 22 attempts at the posts in the 2019 Leinster final.

Cillian O’Sullivan was a constant menace on the half-forward line, as was Matthew Costello at wing-back, and the bench provided 2-2 when the game opened up in the final quarter.

12 goals in two championship games, brough about by some exceptional lines of running up front, indicates Meath’s attacking play is in fine fettle.

But their poor first-half showing can’t be discounted either and defensive errors by Kildare proved costly.

“We had been creating chances throughout the league but we weren’t taking them. From a head space point of view, Kildare had dominated the game, had out played us in pretty much every area of the field and all of a sudden the game was level. That itself can be harsh, a little bit like the hurling last night I suppose.

“We got a couple of breaks, we got a couple of turnovers at vital stages. I think two of the goals came from turnovers, close to goals. That takes hard work.”

On Meath’s second-half turnaround, McEntee said: “I’m afraid it had very little to do with me really. Lads were very much aware that we hadn’t performed and at least we had 35 or 37 or 38 minutes to put that right.

“There’s never any guarantee but I suppose the two goals early in the second-half made a huge difference and lifted spirits in general.

“You prepare as best you can and the truth of the matter is that Kildare were sharper, they were stronger, they were more physical, tactically they were well set up, we weren’t doing the things that we had planned to.

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“Everyone has a plan until they get a punch on the nose so we had to figure it out a little bit on the pitch ourselves.”

Meath’s performance against Dublin in October, when they lost the Division 1 meeting by four points in Parnell Park, suggests they’ve closed the gap somewhat on the All-Ireland champions. 

james-mccarthy James McCarthy has a shot for Dublin against Laois. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

But facing the Sky Blues in the league in Parnell Park, and championship in Croke Park are two different entities, even if both were played behind closed doors. 

Spealing about Meath following their semi-final win over Laois, Dessie Farrell said: “They’ve been performing really well of late. We obviously played them in the league a couple of weeks ago in Parnell Park and they will probably feel hard done by that they didn’t come away from that game with something.

“So they’re in a good place and they’ve racked up some really big scores. In this game, scoring goals at the rate they’re scoring, it definitely warrants plenty of attention, that’s for sure.

“We we’re under no illusions about what lies in store for us next weekend.”

Farrell was unhappy with how Dublin started against Laois, where they led by 0-3 to 0-2 at the first-half water break.

“We probably wouldn’t be happy with what we were doing in the first quarter. Turning over a lot of balls. We didn’t come out of the traps the way we would have liked.

“That’s definitely something for us to look at.

“I don’t know whether it was over-exuberance or a little bit of lethargy in terms of not really putting the foot on the throttle there at times.”

The short turnaround means he’ll quickly focus on Meath ahead of Saturday night’s final.

“[We'll] just review tonight’s performance,” Farrell said. “If there’s any learnings from that. And then take a look at Meath and see if there’s anything that they’re doing and try and develop a strategy that will try and get us to where you want to go.

“The turnaround is the same for everybody. Nobody is stealing a march. Nobody can use that as an excuse. I think tonight for us was about getting another championship performance under our belts and hoping that we could gel things a bit more and get that dynamic that is important in terms of cohesiveness.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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