Royals routed by resurgent Dublin
Billed as a test of just where Meath are in their transition under new manager Colm O'Rourke, this NFL Div 2 clash with Dublin in a pack Pairc Tailteann today turned into a rout as the Royals were hammered 1-11 to 2-19 by their rejuvenated visitors.
Dublin's powers were supposedly on the wane. Meath's new attacking long ball style was anticipated to cause Dessie Farrell's side problems, but instead it was the Royals who struggled throughout and were handed a lesson.
Right from the off Meath were second best all over the field. Physically beaten up, tactically overwhelmed and spooked by the occasion the hosts struggled to find a spark to get the huge crowd going or rattle the Dubs.
On the back foot from the off after losing the toss and playing into the teeth of a strong breeze Meath were punished by their more clinical visitors. In the opening 15 minutes both sides had five attacks, Dublin kicked five points, Meath managed one.
Given the paucity of scoring opportunities Meath needed to take every chance, but early wides from Ronan Jones, Diarmuid Moriarty, Jason Scully and Harry Hogan (from a '45') were countered by points from Brian Fenton, Killian O'Gara, Lee Gannon and Cormac Costello (two, one '45') as Dublin grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and never let up.
In their previous five games Meath conceded an average of 18 points and by the end of the opening quarter they were well on their way to exceeding that average as Costello and Con O'Callaghan extended Dublin's advantage to 0-7 to 0-1 with Meath's only score in the opening 19 minutes coming from a Moriarty free.
Jack Flynn kicked Meath's first score from play in the 20th minute and seconds later Mathew Costello had the ball, rather luckily, in the net as his dipping point attempt lopped over David O'Hanlon's head and went in at the back post.
Surely that would be the spark to get Meath, and the supporters, up and running – alas not.
Meath didn't score again in the half as Dublin quickly wrestled back total control with a fortunate score as the home defence failed to deal with Brian Fenton's free from distance that bounced in front of the goals and over the bar.
It was that type of uncertainty and lack of conviction that epitomised Meath's display.
O'Callaghan had a goal chance a minute later and blazed wide. Ciaran Kilkenny nonchalantly lofted over and in the 25th minute Dublin cut the Meath rearguard to sunder but couldn't apply the finish as O'Callaghan's ball across the face of the goals was just out of O'Gara's reach.
Just to highlight Meath's luck they went close to scrambling a second goal in the 35th minute, but Moriarty had his shot blocked and from the ensuing scramble Dublin won a free which they took quickly and launched a counter-attack which left Meath trailing and saw O'Gara finish brilliantly beyond Hogan.
A careless ball from Shane Crosby gifted Dublin their next possession and O'Callaghan's long ball picked out O'Gara who pointed with ease to ensure a 1-11 to 1-2 interval lead for Dublin.
Heading for the dressing room with their tails between their legs Meath needed a strong start to the second-half and they boosted their attack by introducing Aaron Lynch, Cillian O'Sullivan and Daithi McGowan, but it took almost seven minutes for them to use the wind to any effect with Lynch showing a nice shimmy before pointing.
The sides continued to trade scores as Costello (free) and Moriarty pointed in response to scores from Gannon and O'Gara, but in the closing quarter Dublin upped the tempo and stretched further clear.
O'Callaghan got the visitors moving again to make it 1-14 to 1-5 and when Fenton, O'Callaghan (two) and Costello (free) added to their tally Meath's nightmare looked like getting worse.
However instead of letting the heads drop, Meath hit five of the last seven scores, including four in a row from Cathal Hickey, Donal Lenihan and two from Flynn to make it 1-9 to 1-18.
Sean Bugler responded for Dublin, but again Meath showed decent attacking intent with the lively Lynch and Costello on target. However, just as they were taking some solace from their improved finish Meath shipped a second goal four minutes into injury-time to put the cap on a quickly forgettable game.
Dublin - Cormac Costello 1-4 one free, one '45'; Killian O'Gara 1-3; Con O'Callaghan 0-4; Brian Fenton 0-4 one free; Lee Gannon 0-2; Ciaran Kilkenny 0-1; Sean Bugler 0-1.
Meath - Mathew Costello 1-2 one free; Jack Flynn 0-3 one '45'; Diarmuid Moriarty 0-2 one free; Aaron Lynch 0-2; Cathal Hickey 0-1; Donal Lenihan 0-1.
Dublin -David O'Hanlon; Daire Newecombe, David Byrne, Michael Fitzsimons; James McCarthy, John Small, Lee Gannon; Brian Fenton, Tom Lahiff; Ciaran Kilkenny, Con O'Callaghan, Eoin Murchan; Cormac Costello, Killian O'Gara, Niall Scully. Subs - Sean Bugler for Scully 28 mins, Brian Howard for Lahiff 55m, Colm Basquel for O'Gara 61m, Ryan Baquel for O'Callaghan 64m, Cian Murphy for Gannon 69m.
Meath - Harry Hogan; Adam O'Neill, Michael Flood, Harry O'Higgins; Donal Keogan, Padraic Harnan, Cathal Hickey; Ronan Jones, Jack Flynn; Jack O'Connor, Jason Scully, Shane Crosby; Jordan Morris, Mathew Costello, Diarmuid Moriarty. Subs - Aaron Lynch for Morris, Cillian O'Sullivan for O'Connor, Daithi McGowan for Crosby all half-time, Donal Lenihan for Scully 54 mins, Eoin Harkin for Keogan 61m.
Referee - Conor Lane (Cork).