A stunning second-half showing from Meath in Pairc Tailteann ensured they got the better of rivals Dublin in the first round of the Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship on Saturday afternoon, writes Ruth Chambers.
Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship Round 1
Neck-in-neck during the first 30 minutes, the young Royals pulled out a top drawer performance to outscore their opponents 1-11 to 0-3 after the turnaround. The victory ensures John McCarthy’s side advance to a provincial quarter final against Westmeath on October 28.
Preparations for this opening round clash were less than ideal for McCarthy’s charges. Indeed they were forced to line out with a number of big names but you wouldn’t have guessed it on Saturday. The first half was an even affair and indeed the sides were level at the break with four points apiece. However, the second half was anything but even. A sublime showing from captain Eoghan Frayne led the way for a blistering third quarter that saw Meath grab 1-8 to take complete and utter control. Even the water break didn’t break their momentum as they picked up where they left off for the remaining 15 minutes to secure the comprehensive victory.
During the opening half, you would never have thought Meath were going to end up eleven points better off than the visitors. The teams were very evenly matched and Dublin probably should have been ahead at the interval but poor shooting and a great save from Billy Hogan meant they were all square at the break.
It was the home side that drew blood first when Eoghan Frayne converted a free out of his hands with five minutes on the clock. Dublin responded soon after when they also sent over a free but the impressive Dunshaughlin man John McDonagh grabbed the Royals’ first from play to nudge them in front with ten minutes played.
The sides continued to trade points throughout the half with Dublin always finding themselves having to answer a Meath score. When Eoghan Frayne split the posts from a free in the 27th minute, McCarthy’s charges thought they would be taking a one point advantage to the dressing room at the break. However, Dublin responded through Ballinteer St John’s man Luke Breathnach to ensure the sides were level (0-4 to 0-4) at half time.
After the turnaround, just 20 seconds in to be precise, Dublin hit the front for the one and only time in this game. Luke Ward collected possession from Breathnach before firing over to leave the Dubs leading by the minimum. However, Ruairi Kinsella answered by raising a white flag down the other end and indeed could very well have raised a green one with his effort. He looked to have gone for goal but had to be happy with the point in the end.
By the 38th minute, the sides were still deadlocked but thereafter Meath found the higher gears and left their opponents in a state of shock before the second half water break.
Three points from Frayne and another from Kinsella gave the Royals a four point cushion by the 42nd minute. And then came the game’s only goal; a goal that ultimately ended the Dublin challenge.
The goal came when John McDonagh’s shot for a point dropped short and his club mate grabbed hold of possession before drawing the boot and striking past Hugh O’Sullivan in the Dublin net and left the scoreboard reading 1-11 0-7.
Midfield man Conor Gray got in on the scoring act soon after and further points from McDonagh, Frayne and Kinsella secured the impressive 1-15 to 0-7 win for John McCarthy’s charges.
Aside from the superb Frayne, the Royals had peachy performers all over the field. John McDonagh, a late addition to the team, was influential while Sean Emmanuel in the middle of the park was immense. In all Meath’s tackling and the pressure was a sight to behold and they will be brimming with confidence as they head into their last eight meetings with neighbours Westmeath on the 28th of this month.
SCORERS: Meath – Eoghan Frayne 0-7 (2f), Aaron Murphy 1-1, Ruairi Kinsella 0-3, John McDonagh 0-2, Ciaran Caulfield 0-1 (1f), Conor Gray 0-1.
Dublin – Darragh Dempsey 0-2 (2f), Conor Dolan 0-1 (1f), Sean Gannon 0-1, Luke Ward 0-1, Eoin O’Connor Flanagan 0-1, Luke Breathnach 0-1.
MEATH: Billy Hogan; Ben Moran, Liam Kelly, Ben Donnelly; Sean O’Donoghue, Oisin Kelly, Ciaran Caulfield; Sean Emmanuel, Conor Gray; Shane Maguire, Ruairi Kinsella, John McDonagh; Alan Bowden, Eoghan Frayne (C), Aaron Murphy. SUBS: Liam Stafford replaced S Maguire 54 mins, Thomas Corbett replaced J McDonagh (inj) 57 mins, Cormac Sherry replaced A murphy 58 mins.
DUBLIN: Hugh O’Sullivan; Sean O’Driscoll, Theo Clancy, Robert O’Shea; Eoin O’Connor Flanagan, Daire O’Rourke, Greg McEneaney; Alex Gavin, Tom Brennan; Conor Dolan, Luke Breathnach, Seamus Smith; Sean Gannon, Darragh Dempsey, Luke Ward. SUBS: David Keogh replaced C Dolan 42 mins, Fionan Turner replaced D Dempsey 45 mins, Ross Keogh replaced S Gannon 46 mins, Eoin Wilde replaced S Smith 46 mins.
REFEREE: Alan Coyle (Westmeath)