Just before six o’clock this evening the deposed Ulster champions Monaghan availed of the final Get Out of Jail card in this year’s championship. So although it’s still a fortnight until the All-Ireland series gets underway, we’ve now reached the stage – with twelve counties still in the running for Sam – where every match from here on is a knockout one. The championship has begun.
It didn’t feel much like the championship at Croke Park this afternoon where Dublin ambled to their ninth Leinster title in ten years. Meath were utterly abject, wasteful with the ball they got – and they got a good deal of it over the course of the seventy minutes – and sent into battle with no clear idea how to stop the blue tide engulfing them. Which it repeatedly did until, by half-time, the result was already beyond doubt.
That disallowed goal, which came shortly after Dublin’s somewhat fortunate opening major, was hard luck on the Royals, as well as being an obvious refereeing blunder, though I don’t honestly think it would have saved them from a whipping. On a day, though, when everything needed to go their way if they were to remain in the hunt at all, it was a bad call they could have done without.
They didn’t help themselves, however, in particular with the number of bad wides they recorded in the first half. Mickey Newman was the principal culprit here, his wayward efforts making it look as if he’d spent the last few days at the Danny Cummins school of speculative pot-shots.
So Dublin are once more masters of all they survey in Leinster, a province where any semblance of inter-county competition at senior level in football has now been completely extinguished. No county is capable of keeping the ball kicked out to the Dubs at this point in time and it’s not too wide of the mark to claim that Dublin’s second team would beat the pick of the rest. It truly is a province in crisis from a footballing competitiveness point of view.
Dublin, needless to say, look like a team that’ll take some beating from here on. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that they’ve yet to face any meaningful opposition in this year’s championship, having accounted for the might of Laois, Wexford and now Meath in capturing a fourth successive Delaney Cup. Unless they get paired with Kildare in the quarters, then their path to the final won’t include a single county that played Division One football this spring, though they may yet have to get by two – Donegal and Monaghan – that’ll operate in the top tier next year.
On today’s evidence in Clones, Jimmy McGuinness’s rejuvenated Donegal look best placed to provide the defending champions with a realistic challenge ahead of the final itself. It’s likely that these two counties – who last met in the championship in that suffocating semi-final back in 2011 – will face off at the penultimate stage this year. If they do, it’ll sure make for an interesting clash of styles.
On the back of today’s crushing win, the Dubs’ odds for Sam have tightened to a miserly 4/9, while Donegal have come in considerably, standing now at 10/1. Ourselves and Kerry are still joint second favourites but we’ve both drifted out to 13/2.
Final point about today’s inter-county action – as @GAAScores pointed out (before it happened), the double wins recorded by both Dublin and Donegal today in their respective senior and minor provincial finals mean that – surely for the first time ever – the same counties in each province have recorded both minor and senior provincial title wins this year. Donegal’s win in the Ulster minor decider also, of course, means that our lads play Armagh in the quarters, on a date and venue yet to be decided.
Closer to home, there was a veritable raft of action in the county club championships this weekend. A handy summary of all the results at Senior, Intermediate and Junior level and what they all mean is here.
Finally, commiserations to the county’s ladies’ U14 team who were beaten in today’s All-Ireland final by Kerry on a scoreline of 6-8 to 4-9. Hard luck girls.