McCabe wary of Vins despite absentees
NO Diarmuid Connolly, no Ger Brennan ... no big issue according to Summerhill boss Declan McCabe, who takes his team to Parnell Park on Sunday (2.0) intent on grabbing a place in the AIB Leinster club SFC final with what would, according to both the odds and recent tradition, represent a shock win over 2007 provincial champions, St Vincent's.
"I've seen them recently," McCabe told the Herald, "and they have brought on five subs in every game and I can't see any difference in who starts and who doesn't start.
"I suspect, in the bigger Dublin clubs, there is huge competition to get onto the senior team. So to be honest, I don't believe they will suffer much from players being out."
Kevin Golden's priceless late goal in the drawn Dublin SFC with Ballymun Kickhams or Eamon Fennell's growing influence are probably the most legible illustrations of McCabe's opinion.
Yet given the importance to Vincent's of Brennan as captain and leader, and the continuation of an exceptional season's work for Connolly deep into winter, this is surely as good a time as any for Summerhill in what has been a fairly arid terrain for Meath clubs in recent seasons.
In truth, it ranks as something of an oddity that Meath's champions have struggled to establish any traction in this competition.
Eamon Barry's three in-a-row Dunshaughlin team of 2000 to 2002 are the only outfit from the Royal county to graduate to provincial honours – in the last season of their Royal dominance – since 1984, when Barry himself (along with former Kilmacud Crokes boss Paddy Carr and ex-Offaly manager Gerry Cooney) were on the Walterstown side that won a second Leinster title in four years.
Summerhill themselves were Leinster champions in 1978, but their last experience of provincial battle, and also Dublin opposition, doesn't reflect quite so well on this group.
Just two years ago, they were obliterated by St Brigid's in the first round by 2-15 to 0-11 in Parnell Park, yet in mitigation, they had just grasped a first county title in 25 years and a greater devotion to celebration rather than Leinster preparation seemed to prevail in the preceding three weeks.
"That part is gone," insists McCabe, a brother of Cavan All Star Dermot. "And we quickly got back to work after this year's win. We would have been disappointed if we didn't give it a bigger effort than we did when we met St Brigid's two years ago, when we didn't do ourselves justice.
"You have to play in that competition to realise that it's totally different from your own county championship. You play those games, you're familiar with the opposition, you're familiar with the venues and it becomes a habit.
"Playing a club game in a provincial competition is totally different. You're travelling away from home and that in itself brings on new challenges. "Basically, you have to get it right because the thing happens so quickly. You arrive, play the game and before you know it, the game is over."
Meath midfielder Conor Gillespie is the most recognisible name on the Summerhill team sheet, but they also have the likes of Caolán Young and David Larkin, tipped for seniordom at county level, and David Dalton (son of former Kildare defender Davy Dalton) who returned last day out from a succession of ankle and groin injuries which has kept him sidelined since Meath's NFL Division 3 final against Monaghan, in which he scored a superb solo goal.
Two weeks ago, they struggled past Louth's Newtown Blues in Drogheda, a sign that their appetite for additional silverware had expanded since their last timid foray into Leinster.
"From what I know about football in Dublin, St Vincent's are the aristocrats. That's my opinion. Other clubs come and go. But for any team, getting through the Dublin quagmire, I assume, would be the first challenge and once they do that, I can't but think they would then be thinking of at least a Leinster final position then."
"You're playing in the Lion's den," he adds of the perils of visiting Donnycarney. "Geographically, the St Vincent's team could walk to that ground. But it's another pitch and it's about getting that message back to our players. But I suspect it will be a bit of a cauldron up there, given the support they have."