'John Small is turning into an outstanding man-marker' 2 months ago

'John Small is turning into an outstanding man-marker'

Dublin may be going without a couple of attacking talents, but they still have a wealth of options and their defence is looking solid.

There looks to be no return for Diarmuid Connolly, Colm Basquel is also set to head to the USA while Paul Flynn has retired. Still, Jim Gavin was able to go into a Leinster final with Paddy Andrews, Eoghan O'Gara, KevinMcManamon and Dean Rock on the bench.

Meath fans at Croke Park, on Sunday, were enjoying the dog-fight during the early stages of the Leinster final.

There was some real bite to the opening 20 minutes of the final as Meath harried and pressed The Dubs while showing some ambition to flood forward. There was no score for 11 minutes and Dublin only managed 0-3 in that opening 20 minutes. Meath's only problem, though, was the big ugly '0-0' up on the scoreboards.

Brian Fenton

It took The Royal County 33 minutes to register a point. All told, they managed 0-4 for the worst scoring return in a Leinster final since 1985.

For all of the wastefulness of the Meath players, the relentless hounding of the Dublin defensive unit deserves a lot of credit. Marshalled by Cian O'Sullivan, at centre back, Dublin were organised and straight-up mean. Philly McMahon was recalled to the starting 15 and looked very good. John Small was a pain in the ass.

On The GAA Hour, Colm Parkinson looked back on that final with former Meath forward Cian Ward and Conan Doherty. Parkinson commented:

PARKINSON: Cillian O'Sullivan didn't get a kick by John Small. John Small is turning into an outstanding man-marker.

WARD: An excellent man-marker, and Davy Byrne did a good job on O'Sullivan, at times, too. They just have the pace and strength to stay with most players... whoever they come up against, though, Dublin have such a superiority over every team.

PARKINSON: How are they so much fitter, though? What are your thoughts on that?

WARD: Well, you're always fitter when you are winning by 10 points and there's just 10 minutes left! They didn't look any fitter than Mayo [in 2017] when there was just a couple of minutes left and the game was in the melting pot.

As much as he talked up the match as 'nip and tuck', Dublin boss Jim Gavin will be hoping his side get tested in at least one of their three Super 8 outings.

The reigning champs were always likely to push on for their fifth successive Sam Maguire without Diarmuid Connolly and that news looks to be official now, with the 31-year-old reportedly heading back for a second summer with Donegal Boston. Colm Basquel has been a handy squad player, and is a handful on the club scene but, according to the Irish Independent, looks to be off to Wolfe Tones in Chicago.

Losing two players of such quality, on the back of the Flynn retirement, would rock most counties to their core. For Dublin, the machine is primed and moving steadily on.

You can listen to the Dublin chat, and much more from the show right here.