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Monday 16 December 2019

Dark clouds gather over Dublin as McCarthy loss dampens win

BLUE CLOUD: Dublin’s James McCarthy is helped off the pitch with a knee injury right before half-time. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
BLUE CLOUD: Dublin’s James McCarthy is helped off the pitch with a knee injury right before half-time. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Here were two dark clouds over Dublin's victory over Meath for what was a record ninth Leinster title in a row in Croke Park yesterday.

One was the weather feature that stalled its downpour until Meath had congregated in a hushed huddle in the middle of the pitch in Croke Park and Stephen Cluxton was namechecking his 'thank yous from the Hogan Stand.

The other was the injury to James McCarthy that forced him out of the game with three minutes to play in the first half.

So much as anyone could make out in Croke Park yesterday, McCarthy pulled up lame without any significant collision.

He required the help of two of Dublin's medical team to leave the pitch and afterwards, McCarthy was seen on crutches with his right knee iced.

"We'll have a look over the next 48 hours," said Jim Gavin reaching for his stock injury answer.

"The medical protocols will kick into place. We'll reassess early next week."

As Dubs noted somberly to each other yesterday evening, it tends to take something fairly significant to force McCarthy off the pitch.

And this isn't a good time of year to be suffering a significant injury.

Journey

Other than that, yesterday will be consigned to distant memory as quickly as possible.

Of all the Leinster final cakewalks Dublin have had this decade, this one was only the most recent.

Dublin came and did precisely what they were expected to do, a little bit slower at the start and much quicker at the end - but the upshot was the same.

"If you go down to that Dublin dressing room you'll see how much it means for them," insisted Gavin.

"A lot of the guys at U10s or in 5th or 6th class, got the opportunity to play here many, many years ago.

"At that age your idols are your senior club players and the Dublin senior football team.

"That's who those guys are representing today, and all the volunteers that are part of this great sporting organisation that we have, their families and all the people who've helped them on their footballing journey."

"And," said Gavin, expanding on his point, "the same for the Meath guys, there's a great condition of Gaelic games in Meath.

"I'm sure both sets of players would have turned up today and been very proud of what they gave.

"Meath will have a lot to say in this championship yet, that's for sure.

"But from the players' perspective, it's like their first win up there in the Leinster final.

"They're just so happy and I'm happy for them because I saw the preparation and work they've put in over the past number of weeks preparing for the game.

Lowest

"And they traded off that today and thankfully they got the result."

Gavin maintained the the first half "panned out the way we thought it would" although his team's five points in that period reflected their lowest tally in a half in a Championship match on his watch.

The win made it a 17th trophy under Gavin out of 20 since he took over in late 2012, although the significance of what comes next, he was understandably coy about Dublin's prospects of an 18th even if the pathway is clearer.

Dublin will start their Super 8s group with two matches in Croke Park, firstly against Cork or whoever beats them and then Roscommon.

After that, it's away to Cavan or whichever team knocks the beaten Ulster finalists out in the last round of qualifiers.

"To be honest I haven't even looked beyond the hedge of the Leinster final," Gavin said.

"Obviously I need to lift it up now and see who we potentially could have and what the sequence will be.

"But, yeah we've a lot of work to do.

"We'll enjoy tonight and it is a final, it's a Leinster final and we're going to meet the family and friends and reflect on the occasion.

"And next week we'll get ready for the challenge ahead."

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