Meath hoping for a Saturday night shocker
After watching his side produce one of their poorest 35 minutes of action for some time, followed quickly by one of their most explosive halves of football Meath manager Andy McEntee insisted that Sunday's performance when overcoming Kildare was just the type of display that will ensure no one will be getting carried away ahead of next Saturday's Leinster SFC final with Dublin (throw-in 7pm).
In the opening half of the semi-final Meath were woeful and their plan of attack was totally disrupted by a Kildare side that showed more hunger, more desire and a greater ability to create scoring chances.
By half-time Meath were six points adrift and should have been further behind as Kevin Flynn clipped the top of the crossbar with the goal at his mercy three minutes before the break.
A repeat of that first-half display next Saturday evening against the five-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin, who are chasing a 10th successive Delaney Cup, would undoubtedly mean curtains before half-time for Meath.
For that reason alone McEntee might be glad that his side had to endure such a torrid opening half against Kildare because that showing will ensure feet remain firmly on the ground ahead of a second successive Leinster final against Dublin.
"I think the first-half performance proved we can't be getting carried away with this result. If we wanted any grounding it was there in the first-half, that's the truth," said McEntee after the win over Kildare.
"We didn't perform well, we didn't show the hunger, we didn't show the appetite and we are not good enough to be able to do that.
"I think it's up to other people to decide if we are better placed now to face Dublin than we were last year, ask me after the game next week I suppose and I'll tell you.
"I'm not being smart but, it's hard to know. Nobody has managed to beat them in six years so that's everybody's aim, but nobody has achieved it.
"Our hunger is always there, it's always been there. So long as I've been in charge it's always been there, we haven't always delivered on it, but I wouldn't accuse these guys of lacking hunger, not for one minute," said the Meath boss.
Just over two-and-a-half hours after Meath had booked their final place Dublin secured their spot in yet another provincial decider.
New manager Dessie Farrell was clearly delighted with the 2-23 to 0-7 victory over Laois, but did reflect on an opening quarter that was well below the standards the All-Ireland champions set for themselves.
“We probably wouldn’t be happy with what we were doing in the first-quarter, turning over a lot of balls," Farrell explained after the semi-final victory.
"We didn’t come out of the traps the way we would have liked. That’s definitely something for us to look at.
“It’s difficult to know if it was too many errors or what.
"We’ll have to look at the tape and see what was going on there, but we conceded some needless turnovers.
“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," said Farrell.
Taking over from Jim Gavin who guided Dublin to their historic five-in-a-row is a tough act to follow, but Farrell has inherited a great panel of players and he is very much looking forward to his first Leinster SFC final as Dublin senior manager.
As is almost the norm with Dublin managers Farrell was coy about his side's chances in the final and insisted his side will show Meath respect.
He has fond memories of Meath, but he also recalls the last time Dublin suffered defeat in Leinster when Meath fired 5-9, the same tally as they managed last Sunday against Kildare, in the 2010 Leinster SFC semi-final, although he wasn't part of the team.
“Yeah, we’re obviously happy with the result against Laois and look forward to a Leinster final now," said Farrell.
“I do indeed (remember the rivalry with Meath), very fondly.
"Obviously we didn’t get to see any of their win over Kildare, but they’ve been performing really well of late.
"We 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 are under no illusions about what lies in store for us next weekend.
“All we can do is take each game on its merits. We have to prepare for each game accordingly. You never know when there’s going to be a banana skin presented to you.
“We’ve to be diligent around getting ourselves right and take every game as it comes."
So how will Dublin prepare for a game they are expected to coast to victory in?
"The plan would be, first and foremost recovery. Getting the bodies right. I know that’s old hat at this stage, but it is really, really important that we come into the game fresh as we can, even though it’s only a six-day turn around," said Farrell.
"Then we will review tonight’s performance (against Laois) and see if there’s any learnings from that.
"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.
“I think there is always a level of expectation when you’re involved with Dublin football, even going back to my own playing days.
“There was a period in that era that wasn’t hectic, but there was still that level expected of Dublin teams. It goes with the territory. You just embrace it and get on with it.
“The (six day) turnaround is the same for everybody, nobody is stealing a march, nobody can use that as an excuse.
"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,” concluded Farrell.
It certainly promises to be a Leinster final of much intrigue.
Meath are very much a side on the up and while they did manage to run Dublin to just four points (0-19 to 1-20) in the NFL Div 1 last month they will be well aware that the All-Ireland champions are a different animal altogether in the championship.
Last year Meath performed heroically in the opening half to limit Dublin to just five points, but it was at the other end of the field where they struggled as they kicked just one point in the opening half.
After the break they managed just three more scores, but Dublin went on to coast to a 1-17 to 0-4 victory.
Since then Meath have improved beyond all recognition and have added significant depth to their panel.
Young players like Jordan Morris, Mathew Costello, Cathal Hickey and David Toner have come in and performed brilliantly.
Others like Shane Walsh, Ronan Jones and Bryan McMahon have enhanced their growing reputation while the more established players like Cillian O'Sullivan, Shane McEntee, Donal Keogan, Bryan Menton and Conor McGill have developed into outstanding leaders.
Meath are far from being the finished article and all things being equal Dublin are still the marginally superior team, but the gap is closing and in knock-out football anything can happen.
If Dublin have an off day and Meath continue with their hot goal streak then they are in with a shout.
Cork proved that anything is possible when they knocked Kerry out of the Munster SFC two weeks ago.
Meath will hope for a similar shock on Saturday night and it is not beyond the realms of possibility.