Tears. The first reaction that comes to mind. Emotion for very personal reasons, immense pride at a performance woven thick with the acrylic of the famed Meath never-say-die attitude and then finally heartache at what felt like one that certainly got away.
Items two and three are what need to be focused upon though. More so the middle one indeed. The odds pre-game weren’t so much prohibitive as downright disrespectful. As they have tended to be for any team taking on runaway freight train that has been Dublin for the last decade. And with good reason, see the preceding description. However, you wouldn’t need to by Sherlock Holmes or Mystic Meg to realise the sands had shifted. Albeit not drastically.
But it has to be worth something that green and gold have mastered the two shades of blue at Minor level a few times in more recent years and that – though scant consolation tonight – for the second time in a week, we find ourselves talking about a joust with the auld enemy that got away on us. Remember, on the last couple of occasions their paths crossed at senior level the Metropolitans won by 15 and 21 points respectively.
Knockers and detractors will of course say “Dublin still won easily, or ‘it was only a bit of a Dublin team’. Both statements are piles of dung. Dublln won, yes, but by no means was it easy. And as for the ‘bit’ of a Dublin team line – Jonny Cooper, Dean Rock and Peadar O’Cofaigh-Byrne aren’t exactly slouches.
Things may have ultimately ended up along predicted lines, but, the sense in the lead up to the game that there was going to be something different about this tangle between the old foes was borne out.
When the two big calls in the game erroniously went against the challengers it appeared as if it were going to go along what had become normal lines. Especially when both incidents culminated in Dublin goals from a Cormac Costello penalty – which should never have been – and Con O’Callaghan.
Trailing by 0-06 to 2-11 at half time, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was going to be another one of ‘those’ days for the Royal County. Then again, gut feeling is seldom wrong, and, when Donal Keogan and Mathew Costello put together a great move which resulted in the Dunshaughlin youngster raising a green flag.
Ronan Jones then entered the fray and thereafter Meath enjoyed a spell of domiance as scores were tacked on courtesy of Jordan Morris, the Wallace brothers Eamon and Joey and substitute Tomas O’Reilly. For a very brief period it appeared the most unlikely of comebacks might actually be on.
Inches. In the end it really did come down to inches. And those inches ultimately made the difference. One minute it appeared Meath were about to goal and sensationally draw level, the next, Dublin called on all their nous and knowhow to reel off three quick points to steer themselves home.
It was far from the easy exercise the bookies and majority of obsevers predicted it to be. Dublin will know that themselves, more importantly, so too will suitors to their crown. As for Meath, they were heroic in defeat.
One former Meath player’s post game comments that they had “Shown great spirit but a defeat is still a defeat” really angered me. Every occurrance requires context. Of course from a coldly analytical standpoint, they did end up on the wrong side of an Old Firm derby, but that doesn’t tell half the story.
Nobody will have felt the hurt of how recent games against Dublin had gone more than the players, mentors and those closest to them. There are few more frustrating things with anything in life than not doing yourself justice in whatever it is you are at. That was surely the case in the last few encounters with the Dubs.
Today’s display addressed that. More than that, the trojan effort pointed to better days not being too far away. A sense only heightened by the improving fortunes of county underage teams most recently.
Thus, the crucial conveyor belt of talent has began chugging forward again. The wheels have been put in motion, how the journey is managed from here will be pivotal to what happens next. Thread softly for you thread on my dreams.