Posted by Shane Stapleton at Croke Park
Sunday 22 July 2012
So often you come out of a game saying: that moment will be replayed time and again. Joe Sheridan’s try in 2010, Stephen Cluxton’s winning free-kick a year and some months later — they’ll live on. On Sunday, a single replay on the big screens at Croke Park is a moment we’ll recall forever.
It was the day when video refereeing made it’s unbeckoned bow in the GAA. Eoghan O’Gara was put into the penalty area by Paddy Andrews and drove it over the bar. The umpire, like a child sitting too close to the screen, couldn’t see the full picture so he hummed and hawed, then hedged his bets and waved it wide.
Instinctively, those in the stadium looked at the big screens for clarification, with the clawing expectation that this contentious decision would not be shown — a cleverly-placed advertisement no doubt taking its place. As happened a little later on when Meath won what seemed a debatable free outside the Dublin 21-yard-line.
But no, the O’Gara dead ball was there for all 69,656 to carry out an autopsy; and all found life in the patient. Including the 30 players on the pitch, the subs, and the mentors. Dublin boss Pat Gilroy screamed blue murder at the linesman and so referee Marty Duffy was called over. The umpire who had caused all the fuss was ordered to do what he should originally should have and raise the white flag. Without a taskforce in sight, we had the first evidence of TV officiating in the GAA.
It was a point but that’s not the point; it was justice but by unjust means. Which is a strange complaint to have.
Like seeing a man go down for a crime he didn’t commit, despite him getting away with a plenitude that he did. As Meath well know, they’d be shy a Leinster title if there was video evidence in 2010 and we’re still all talking about what an injustice that was. Wexford were knockout by Limerick is 2011 and, they would argue, video evidence might have given them a replay.
Though Duffy, his fellow officials, and the poor guy who let the replay air inside the stadium will no doubt get reprimanded, you would hope for leniency.
You can argue that O’Gara’s point cost Meath in the end but really it didn’t. Dublin were the better team and any time pressure was put on, Gilroy’s side lifted a lazy finger and pushed on. It certainly wasn’t a vintage performance by Dublin but you felt they always had an answer.
When the Royals got the first score of the game, Dublin got the next six. When Meath got to within two before the break — 0-7 to 0-5 — Dublin tacked on a couple of goals. Indeed both were the product of areas in which the Dubs had a measurable advantage. The home side had been turned over just once in their own half in that first, but on Meath’s fourth in theirs we eventually saw Bernard Brogan sidefoot past David Gallagher for a goal.
Denis Bastick got that second green flag from a Paul Flynn through ball but it was down a familiar route: Dublin won the kickout and Bastick broke, as he did from restarts throughout the half, at pace. The Dubs won 15 of the 22 kickouts in the first period and Bastick was often involved. It didn’t always end up in scores but this time, with full-back Kevin Reilly gone off injured, there was an ocean of room for Bastick. Followed by an ocean of noise. It was coming, on both counts.
A comeback didn’t look likely at that point but Dublin went a little flat — inviting pressure. Had Meath managed more than just a single point from play between the 36th and 64th minutes of the match, perhaps they could have turned it around.
Yet you never felt they could because the decision-making was so often so poor. Consider the two aimless long balls that ran wide in the second half, Joe Sheridan going for a crazy drop shot on 63 minutes, Graham Reilly trying — and sometimes failing — to take his points when goals were both on and needed. And that’s from the more experienced players in key moments.
Whenever Meath asked the question, and Jamie Queeney’s goal after a lovely move begged one, Dublin answered. That major brought it back to within three points on 68 minutes but before the clock struck 70, Bernard Brogan and O’Gara has pushed it out to five.
Not convincing from Dublin, but that’s in relation to performances by fellow All-Ireland contenders such as Donegal. Meath are hardly in that bracket but sometimes you do enough to beat what’s in front of you and peak later on when it matters.
The history books will recall only the victors, not to mention the day video evidence nudged them along the way to a 51st Leinster title.
Follow Shane Stapleton on Twitter @shanesaint
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