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Friday 18 August 2017

Dub clubs cast giant shadow in Leinster battle

We want to give Leinster a good rattle - Bray

Ruairi O'Cioleain, Navan O'Mahonys, in action against Conor Carton, Donaghmore/Ashbourne. Meath County Senior Football Championship Final, Navan O'Mahonys v Donaghmore/Ashbourne, Páirc Tailteann, Navan, Co. Meath. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Ruairi O'Cioleain, Navan O'Mahonys, in action against Conor Carton, Donaghmore/Ashbourne. Meath County Senior Football Championship Final, Navan O'Mahonys v Donaghmore/Ashbourne, Páirc Tailteann, Navan, Co. Meath. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

IT'S not just the Sky Blue monolith that casts a giant shadow over Leinster football. It's the same at club level too, but that won't stop the new champions of Meath and the perennial kingpins of Laois from dreaming big this winter.

Navan O'Mahonys landed a record 19th Meath SFC title last weekend - and immediately spelled out their ambitions to right the wrongs of their last disastrous provincial foray in 2012.

On the same afternoon, Portlaoise maintained their O'Moore County monolopy by winning an eighth consecutive Laois crown - and, within minutes of lifting the cup, were fielding questions about the perception that they have underachieved by claiming just one Leinster in that period.

If this is true, there is one obvious reason why: the rising tide of Dublin football, at club level as well as county.

The Dublin SFC champions have won six of the last nine Leinster club titles, the most recent two (Ballymun and St Vincent's) ousting Portlaoise in the final. Three of them - Vincent's in 2008, Kilmacud in '09 and Vincent's again last March - have gone on to All-Ireland riches.

Suffice to say, whoever claims the capital spoils between Vin's and St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh next Monday night will automatically be installed as favourites for Leinster.

For O'Mahonys, however, it's all about baby steps after their most recent ill-fated provincial venture - a 2-13 to 0-8 reversal to Longford's Emmet Óg Killoe, two years ago. This was merely an emphatic example of a deflating trend: just four Meath clubs have conquered Leinster, most recently Dunshaughlin in 2002, and not one has reached a final since Skryne in '04.

"We want to represent our county well and, the last few years, Meath champions haven't done well," admitted Stephen Bray, who faces an away date against Rhode (Offaly) or St Patrick's (Louth) on November 9.

"That's a driving force for us and, yes, we've definitely talked about giving Leinster a good rattle. It's very much in the back of your mind because you have to focus hard on winning your own county championship but definitely, yeah, we owe ourselves a good performance in Leinster."

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