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Sunday 17 December 2017

Meath need to ask the hard questions

DESPITE Dublin's almost complete domination of the Leinster championship over the last ten years, a meeting with their old provincial adversary Meath always captures the imagination regardless of recent records or past performances.

If you cast your mind back to Dublin's All-Ireland winning year of 1995, their ten-point victory over Meath in the Leinster final marked their fourth consecutive title, and perhaps indicated that they were set to dominate for a considerable time to come.

However twelve months later a rejuvenated Meath came back to Croke Park to beat Dublin by two points in the decider and set in place a barren spell that seen the Dub's go seven years without Provincial honours.

While the success that followed has masked those trophy-less years, in some ways the tales from 1996 and indeed from 2012, the so-called hangover years from Dublin's All-Ireland successes are a firm reminder for Jim Gavin and his players around the historical difficulties teams have in rediscovering the drive and determination in the proceeding year to their All-Ireland success.

And although to date Gavin's men have answered all questions put their way, as Mick O'Dowd's men attempt to break the Dub's stranglehold on the Delaney Cup, the one area that I expect Meath will to try and explore, by bringing a high intensity game to Croke Park, is Dublin's stomach for the fight.

Stiff

In their last two Leinster final meetings, despite offering stiff resistance, Meath have really struggled to get under Dublin's skin. When goal chances presented they failed to take them, allowing Dublin the time to feel their way into the game before eventually going on to win the matches.

If they hope to upset the odds this weekend, then they can't afford to let opportunities pass them by and will need their forward division, with the likes of Stephen Bray, Graham Reilly and Dalton McDonagh, to make early in roads on the scoreboard and thus ask the hard questions of Dublin's championship credentials.

With a midfield that is well capable of competing with the Dub's pairing of Cian O'Sullivan and Michael Darragh MacAuley, they can certainly secure enough ball to feed their attacking unit, and given Dublin's tendency to stick to orthodox marking jobs, there is every possibility early goal chances will be created.

Possibly the biggest question for O'Dowd is what way he sets up defensively, given that recent history has shown that standing toe to toe Dublin is a futile exercise such is the prowess of not only their front six, but of the equally clinical forwards waiting to be introduced from the bench.

There is every chance he will play with a sweeper, Damien Carroll could fill the role, with the aim being to stop, or at the very least curtail the potency of the inside forward line who thrive on long, early ball delivered in.

However, while this may cause problems for one part of the Dub's attack, it could inadvertently free up another lethal threesome.

Dublin's half-forward line of Diarmuid Connolly, Alan Brogan and the ever-consistent Paul Flynn has the potential to cause Meath's half-back line untold problems, and it's from here that I believe Dublin will lay the basis to win the game.

Loaded with the pace, power and incredible stamina, a lack of desire won't come into it for these three, and if they can set the tone for those around them, then it should be four in a row for Dublin, and safe passage to the August bank holiday weekend.

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