Leinster titles no longer carry any real degree of currency in Dublin.
The county’s recent dominance of the province, while welcome, has not yet morphed into All Ireland title success — and therein lies the biggest test facing manager Pat Gilroy as he prepares to dip his toe in the championship water for the first time against Meath at Croke Park on Sunday (4.00pm).
A mundane National League campaign has not served to fuel the hopes of Dubs’ fans that their 14-year separation from ‘Sam’ may be coming to an end but for the moment businessman Gilroy is focused only on negotiating a Meath side that, while shorn of the deep-rooted skill and steel that underpinned the county’s successes in the 80’s and 90’s, is more than capable of asking big questions of their metropolitan hosts.
Under Paul Caffrey, Dublin invariably waltzed through Leinster but stumbled when ‘Sam’ glinted on the horizon. Now his successor Gilroy has been made firmly aware that his brief is to take the Dubs that extra mile.
He has certainly been nothing less than meticulous in his trawl for talent and has already made a big statement by leaving players like Ciaran Whelan, Shane Ryan, Bryan Cullen and Jason Sherlock on the bench.
Instead, Gilroy will look to Dave Bastick and Ger Brennan to prop up his defence and will lean on the Ross McConnell-Darren Magee partnership at midfield to ensure that Alan Brogan, Conal Keaney and Mark Daveron in particular see plenty of the ball up front.
Meath boss Eamon O’Brien is squaring up to pressure within his own county. The Royals have flattered to deceive in a Championship context of late, consigned almost to the role of bit players in Leinster and virtually anonymous on the All Ireland stage.
The personable O’Brien may not be blessed with the richest resources but in Nigel Crawford, Cian Ward, Stephen Bray and Joe Sheridan he has players well capable of ruffling Dublin’s feathers.
The Meath rearguard can expect to come under heavy artillery fire from a Dublin frontline that is capable of racking up scores.