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Sky Blues alert to danger of Meath

ON Sunday coming an old rivalry is renewed with Dublin putting their Leinster title on the line against their deadly rivals Meath. This pairing will surely bring a huge crowd to headquarters and past form will be forgotten this week as both sets of supporters will be confident of getting the all-important win.

Meath supporters will also be a little wary because the year to date, apart from Kildare victory, has been extremely disappointing. A bad league run meant relegation to the third tier and that form was carried into the early rounds of the championship against Wicklow and in particular Carlow.

The performances were so bad that the county board tried everything to change the manager mid-season but 'Banty' McEnaney barely survived and must have been absolutely delighted with the team's best performance of the year in the semi-final win over a much fancied Kildare team.

On the day, Meath fully deserved the victory and played some terrific football throughout. The most encouraging aspect from a supporter's point of view was the performances from the younger players.

Alan Forde, Donnacha Tobin, Damien Carroll and Donal Keogan looked and played like experienced players and that victory will do wonders for their confidence but playing the Dubs in a provincial final in front of a big crowd is another step up and nothing they have experienced to date can prepare them for that.

The importance of this fixture, however, has diminished over the years mainly due to the fact that meetings between the two are rare since the introduction of the new format ten years ago but a run of games between the two over the next few years would change all that.

Dublin will go into this game as warm favourites for obvious reasons but anything other than a top performance might just give the neighbours the encouragement they need so I am sure they will be on their toes.

It has been a mixed bag for the Dubs as an opening round annihilation of Louth was followed by a tight game against Wexford in what was a poor performance.

It is always a good sign that a team can dig out a win when they are not playing well but individuals will have to be better in six days time if the team performance is to be better.

For a start the Dublin defence will have to be a lot tighter because Meath have a lot of quality up front and will punish any lapses in concentration over the 70 minutes. Midfield too needs to be better but the return to form of Michael Darragh Macauley is very encouraging. I think the area where most improvement is needed is up front. Both Alan and Bernard Brogan couldn't be happy after the Wexford game despite trying hard but their shooting was off on the day. They might have had a couple of goals each and both will be trying to resume normal service this Sunday.



FORWARDS

It was left to Kevin McManamon to get the scores and he had another great game. If the Dublin forwards get going as a unit the Meath defenders will be in for a long afternoon. The one thing that Meath teams focused on against Dublin teams down the years was keeping clean sheets (not conceding goals) and if they can do that they are in with a shout. That of course will be difficult and Meath will have to break even at midfield at worst and hope that the likes of Brian Farrell, Cian Ward and Joe Sheridan can secure enough possession and convert a high percentage of chances.

What are the chances of a draw next Sunday? Twenty-one years ago the teams met four times in a preliminary round and those games will be remembered by the Leinster council with both squads invited to Croke Park this Sunday,

The games didn't change the face of football or anything like that but they did produce some very exciting moments throughout and culminated in a never to be forgotten fourth game which Meath somehow managed to pull out of the fire at the very death.

It was a devastating end for all the Dubs but unfortunately there had to be a loser. That was a particularly talented Meath team who had won a couple of All-Irelands a few short years before that.

It would be great to see the present Meath team back at the top table because the competition is better with them in it. This team are a long way from getting there but a win on Sunday would elevate them to a level they haven't been at for a few years now.

A Meath team with something to prove represents danger and the underdogs tag will suit them just fine. I still think that Dublin will have too much experience and will be desperate to hang onto their provincial title and I expect them to do just that.