Gilroy's young guns prove too slick for Royals
Dublin 4-18 Meath 0-14
In front of a crowd perhaps most accurately described as committed, Pat Gilroy's era as Dublin hurling manager officially began with a 4-18 to 0-14 victory over Meath in moonlit Abbotstown.
The frozen congregation assembled to observe the new regime.
Mostly though, they would have left entertained by the standard of hurling, given the embryonic stage of the year and, notably, the rawness of the exchanges.
A couple of Dublin wannabes shone with their contributions, some looked almost too desperate to impress, but no-one could be faulted for effort.
Meath, a robust, physically imposing team, thundered into Dublin whenever they could but mostly, Gilroy's side were the better-organised, more clinical and moved the ball better.
They were fitter, too, and it showed.
Notably, there was a return to the Dublin jersey for former captain Johnny McCaffrey, who lined out in midfield alongside Tomás Connolly.
And beforehand, a group who didn't play were led on to the adjoining pitch by Dublin's coaching team.
Among them were Peter Kelly and Shane Durkin, indicative of the seemingly easy reintegration of many of those players who, for various reasons, weren't part of things these past two years.
Beforehand, the joke at the GAA's Centre of Excellence was that Gilroy had already begun to achieve parity of esteem for the Dublin hurlers, given the match was played in the capital, despite technically being a home tie for Meath.
It mattered little. The main pitch in Abbotstown is exposed and wind-swept at the best of times.
In hurling terms, January 3 definitely isn't the best of times.
But still, Dublin managed to control the game from early-on here.
For Gilroy, Feargal Whitely was one of the brightest sparks.
After making his senior debut last year and starring for Kilmacud Crokes in their run to the Dublin SHC, Whitely continued here where he left off in 2016.
He lined out at centre-forward and scored four points from play.
Paul Winters, who toiled and tussled with his man all night, played full-forward and posed a constant threat.
He hit his frees well, t0o, finishing the evening with nine points.
Of the more established men, Dublin's wing-backs; Chris Crummey and Shane Barrett were comfortable throughout, marshaling their flanks with almost total authority.
But there were others, too.
Paddy Smyth, the young Clontarf defender who was part of Ger Cunningham's early squads last year, was typically tidy in the corner while St. Vincent's forward, Alan Moore, caused problems for Meath throughout and scored three points.
Dublin hit the front early and led by 0-6 to 0-2 after just eight minutes but their goals crippled Meath.
After 14 minutes, Robbie McMahon took a long pass from Darren Kelly in behind the Meath cover and placed a simple finish past Shane McGann.
They had another nine minutes later.
A mistake allowed Fionn Ó Riain Broin, who tallied 2-1, the time and space to fire a lot shot into the Meath net.
The Jude's man aalso dded the most impressive score of the night late on.
After Darragh Gray withstood a big hit and trundled on, he found Ó Riain Broin with his back to goal.
There, he had the wherewithal to spin his man and bury his second goal low to McGann's left.
Meath, who will ply their trade in the newly-appointed Joe McDonagh Cup this summer, were playing their second game under new manager Nick Fitzgerald.
They had also Kilkenny legends Martin Comerford and Michael Kavanagh in their management team.
And after beating Antrim by a point in Navan last Saturday, had a chance of making this competition's last four.
In Jack Regan, they had an accurate long free taker and solid centre-back rolled into one but flourishes elsewhere were few and far-between.
When Cian McBride roofed Dublin's third goal shortly after coming on as a half-time substitute, their chances were eroded completely.
For Gilroy however, it was a useful night.
Alan Nolan had one scary moment in the first half but otherwise, commanded his area superbly and distributed well also.
His seemingly career-long battle with Gary Maguire for the number one jersey looks like it could get another round this summer.
In front of him, Bill O'Carroll was composed and did everything a good full-back should.
Dublin have many bigger battles to fight this winter but if they beat Antrim in Parnell Park on Sunday, Gilroy can count on at least one more competitive match a week later before the start of the League.
SCORERS - Dublin: Scorers: P Winters 0-9 (6f, 1 '65), F O Riain Broin 2-1, F Whitely 0-4, R McMahon, C McBride 1-0 each, A Moore 0-3, C Costello 0-1. Meath: J Regan 0-6 (5f), J Kelly 0-3, A Forde, J Toher (f), P Conneely, N Heffernan, E Marsh 0-1 each
DUBLIN: Nolan; P Smyth, B O'Carroll, C Hendricken; S Barrett, D Kelly, C Crummey; J McCaffrey, T Connolly; R McMahon, F Whitely, C Costello; A Moore, P Winters, F O Riain Broin.
Subs: C McBride for McMahon (h-t), S Ó Riain for McCaffrey (48), D Gray for Whitely (51)
MEATH: S McGann; C Lynch, D Healy, S Brennan; D Kelly, J Regan, K Keoghan; A Forde, M O'Grady; J Kelly, J Keena, J Toher; A Gannon, P Connelly, N Heffernan. Subs: P Kelly for Brady (h-t), S McGrath for O'Grady (42), E Marsh for Forde (47), S O'Hanrahan for Connelly (56)
REF: D Hughes (Carlow)