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Dubs must halt Royal accession

IN the never-ending quest to attach great significance and dollop colour down upon Sunday's do-or-die Croke Park shoot-out/Leinster final collision, the '90s are generally the reference point.

And given that Dublin and Meath shared eight Leinster titles and three All-Irelands in that decade, why not?

We've been Kevin Foley-ed to within an inch of our lives this week, reminded ad nauseam that the two counties defined each other's existence. But with the emergence of the qualifiers and the distinct lack of 'do or die' about the Leinster final, is there anything up for grabs greater than local slagging rights or the Delaney Cup?

"I think it could be the creation of a monster," warns Johnny Magee of the perils of a Dublin loss to the Royals. "Young lads have no fear. They (Meath) have no fear whatsoever. If they beat Dublin in a Leinster final, they could kick on. Winning breeds success. For young lads, they'll fear nobody."



destinies

Magee's comments were directed at the younger of the Meath line-up, the likes of Conor Gillespie, Bryan Menton, Ciarán Lenehan, Alan Forde and Damien Carroll. Men with no Dublin hang-ups in their psychological locker and big futures, destinies which could arrive sooner if they take the Dubs out in their first Leinster final appearance.

Magee parallels 1996, when Dublin, as All-Ireland champions, surrendered their Leinster crown to a young, unheralded Meath team, discarded from the national consciousness a year previous after their provincial final capitulation to Pat O'Neill's men.

As Dessie Farrell wrote in his autobiography, Tangled Up in Blue: "Meath had gone on to win the All-Ireland in 1996 and that changed the landscape for Dublin. For nearly five years, we had held the advantage, but had surrendered it to a team of emerging talent.

"For players like Darren Fay, Trevor Giles and Graham Geraghty, it was the step-up they needed."

So, with Kildare already slain, what sort of cataclysmic effects would a win over the Sam Maguire-holding Dubs have for Meath's new tyros?

"They look similar to when Seán Boylan brought in Darren Fay and Trevor Giles and all these young lads when they won in '96," says Magee, who has lived in Ashbourne for the last six years.

Conversely, in 2001, Magee played on the last Dublin team to lose to Meath in a Leinster final, a defeat from which the Dubs struggled to rouse themselves before mounting a comeback against Kerry in Thurles, suffering from the boot of Maurice Fitz and taking a beating in the replay.

"Meath at the time were a very good side," Magee recalls, "and we felt we had the capability to beat them. It took me a while to get over it because as a young fella coming up and playing in your first Leinster final, you want to be pitting your wits against the likes of Trevor Giles and Ollie Murphy, and when it doesn't go well for you and, especially when it's so close, it is hard to take.

"It's hard to get yourself going after that and I'd say for this Dublin team, it could be hard to get going again if they lost next Sunday."

Dublin/Meath ... you've been warned.