herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Royals' style can cause dilemma for Dubs

Direct route can unsettle Dubs but Gavin's men to prevail

IT is not unusual to have a Leinster SFC final between Dublin and Meath and it isn't rare that one team is perceived to be stronger than the other.

Down through the years these great rivals have arrived in Croke Park with varying degrees of form but always arrived confident that they could turn it around on the day.

Meath have been Dublin's greatest rivals in the province since the 1980s and that that trend will continue as long as the present format is retained.

Our close neighbours have spoiled many parties in the past and their supporters get a massive kick from putting one over on the Dubs.

Changed

The landscape of course has changed in the last ten years and Meath are no longer as threatening as before but they seem to be building a nice team with a good system of play and that has allowed them to build some momentum over the past two seasons.

There is a new batch of young lads making their names in the green jersey and they will know from stories told that the best way to prove themselves is to go and beat the Dubs in their own backyard.

Meath will come to Croker this coming Sunday believing that they can win but recent history tells us that Dublin are incredibly difficult to beat especially in the provincial championship.

A win would mean nine of the last ten provincial titles staying in the capital and that is a great achievement in itself.

The great team of the 1970s could only manage six before time caught up with most of them but this present team is changing all the time with more talent coming through the underage system.

The one title Dublin didn't win was in 2010 when Meath put a halt to things before eventually beating Louth in a game they didn't deserve to win.

Against Dublin that year, however, there were no complaints from Dublin as Meath smashed five goals past Stephen Cluxton in what was a dark day for the Dubs.

It was a very different Dublin team that year, a team trying desperately to bridge the gap to the last All-Ireland success in 1995 and in fairness to them they refocused after that defeat to the Royals and very nearly made it to the last day in September.

Since then Dublin won two of the next three All-Irelands, all three provincial titles as well as winning a couple of national leagues. This group of players are leading the way not just in terms of victories but also in the way they play the game.

It is a style of football not seen in the capital for many years and when you look at the way some counties set up it is easy to see why supporters of the game like watching them play.

It is of course up to everyone else to match them and come up with ways of beating them and usually it is always your greatest rival that find a way.

It won't take some genius to come up with a formula to bamboozle the Dubs but rather a traditional method of play where individual battles are won first.

Meath have always had a traditional way of playing football based on winning the midfield battle and kicking the ball direct and fast into the forwards as often as possible.

That way of playing has served them well in the past and is always a good way to play when you have a couple of clinical inside forwards.

I happen to like that approach but they will need to dominate possession from the kickouts if this method is to work.

That of course will not be easy as most have tried and failed to stop Stephen Cluxton getting his kicks away but I am sure that Mick O'Dowd and his backroom team have looked closely at this area.

There should be a huge crowd to witness the latest battle between these two giants and the Dubs will certainly need to be on guard and fully focused. They are the reigning champions and all the pressure is on them to hold onto what they won last year.

The team will be strong no matter who Jim Gavin goes with and the replacements will no doubt bring huge energy when they are brought into the game when required.

When I think of Meath and I think 'banana skin' but it will take a massive performance from them if they are to win this game. I can see a very close game with Meath possibly leading late into the second half but they will need to get off to a fast start for this to happen.

They will also need at least a couple of goals but ultimately if this game goes into the critical concluding ten minute period still in the balance it is the Dubs who have nearly all the aces in terms of talent to come off the bench.

It has been the squad mentality where no one is bigger than the team that has served this group well over the last few seasons and will continue to be very important as more and more talent come through.

This is a game to look forward to and one expects the intensity levels to go up a notch or two. Dublin have the players and the mentality to make it nine titles out of ten and I expect them to do just that.

Dublin have the players and the mentality to make it nine titles out of ten and I expect them to do just that.

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