Going into the final as favorites, Dunshaughlin didn’t disappoint their following among a 7,000 crowd at Navan by dominating throughout. There were one or two moments of apprehension near the end when Mattock failed to convert a couple of goal chances, but not even the losers were suggesting that the Meath champions hadn’t been the better side.
For manager Eamonn Barry there was an appropriate symmetry as he’d played on the Walterstown team that was the last Meath representative to win the title in 1983.
“Having won Meath for three years, we were wondering where we were going and we knew we needed to make an impact on this competition,” Barry said. “The games against Rathnew brought us on by three or four points and we needed that and we can now look forward to playing Crossmolina in the All Ireland semifinal.”
Surprisingly, some of Mattock’s tactics played into the winners’ hands. Appearing in a provincial decider for the first time, they persisted in sending too many kick-outs down the middle of the pitch where possession was nearly always secured by Dunshaughlin’s Niall Kelly. And with Richie Kealy making frequent runs from the halfback line, Mattock were constantly under pressure.
The Louth champions had begun well with two points by David Reid, but soon their attacks were being stifled by the Dunshaughlin defense and their prospects of becoming the first club from the county to triumph at provincial level were looking bleak when they trailed by 0-8 to 0-3 at the interval.
With David Tonge and Richie Kealy on the mark, that margin was soon increased to seven points and despite a fightback inspired by the impressive Christy Grimes, Mattock had left themselves too much to do.
“We missed chances and whereas we got vital goals in previous games, nothing happened for us this time,” said coach Des Lane. “At our stage of development, we’re behind them and they played better football. There’s been a novelty about Mattock Rangers this year, but we’ll be back and maybe it won’t be so much of a novelty any more.”