DUBLIN’S PHILIP MCMAHON insists his side have banished memories of their 2010 5-9 to 0-13 defeat against Meath in the Leinster semi-final, as the two sides prepare to meet on July 22 in the final of the Leinster championship.
The Dubs received heavy criticism following that embarrassing defeat, but have since improved dramatically, winning the All-Ireland for the first time since 1995 last year.
And McMahon says the side won’t have revenge on their mind as they take to the field later this month.
“You try not to look back,” he says. “You’d have it in your head that, like, nearly ‘we owe these one’ but, you know, you can’t think that way because you have to think about the way you’re playing rather than how they play. You try to forget about that game because it’s a negative thing and you want to be thinking positively going into the next game.”
McMahon does not necessarily believe the rivalry between the two sides has died down in recent years, and recalls that disastrous day in which they conceded five goals.
“I wouldn’t say that now. The last time we met, it wasn’t a good time for us. That’ll be in the back of our heads. The last game was a loss for us. They definitely caught us on the hop that year as we were moving well. Defensively we were poor, we conceded five goals and they played well. No, I’ve only played against Meath for Dublin three or four times. I haven’t played them that much to be, you know, getting that hatred involved.”
Yet for all the ignominy that went with it, McMahon believes the defeat may ultimately have been a blessing in disguise.
“I think that game wasn’t only defensively from the back, it was from the forwards all the way back that we went asleep. We weren’t together. Maybe it was the wake up call to say maybe we weren’t as good as we thought we, well, as as thought we were moving. So, we got to the semi-final of the All-Ireland that year, 2010, it probably gave us that experience that, you know, ‘we’re not invincible’. The back door that year helped us as well, you know.”
And McMahon says that his teammate Stephen Cluxton – a notorious perfectionist – may particularly feel the need to atone for 2010.
“Yeah, yeah, we were disappointed to concede a goal against Wexford because we had gone a long run without conceding goals. It’s not something that we’ve…it’s not a goal of ours to concede goals but it’s a good thing to have at the same time. To concede five was very disappointing for me so I’m sure he’s twice as bad.”
(Meath’s Stephen Bray celebrates scoring the opening goal with teammate Joe Sheridan against Dublin in 2010 – INPHO/Cathal Noonan)
It has by no means been a smooth journey to the final, with Dublin giving a less-than-convincing performance against Wexford – a side McMahon believes people tend to underestimate.
“I think a lot of people do. They’ve a good structure and they’re well drilled. We didn’t obviously play well but I think a lot of people underestimate them. They’re a good team. They’re a bit of a burden for us in the Leinster championshp. But it’s still good for us that when they come at us, we structure ourselves properly.”
He emphasises why Dublin, in contrast with previous years, tend to be winning the tight games of late.
“I think we’ve a good structure in place. In the first-half they were pulling us all over the place and dictating the shape of the game. We got in at half-time and said we had to get our shape right. That was important first of all to do that. It’s been tight the last few years so we expected a big challenge off them this year. We’re versatile so even if we’re not playing well, we can still pull off a win.”
And despite going down to 14 men, Dublin managed to escape with a victory, when everything initially appeared to be going pear-shaped.
“We were probably on top at that stage which helped. But I’d say if they got the next three or four scores, it would have been a different story. Dropping a man probably helped us alright as we needed to up our intensity.”
Looking forward to the Leinster final, he concludes the interview with the type of comments that highlight the considerable level of confidence that the Dublin side currently possess.
“So the Meath rivalry for me, it’s just a game of football. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, whether it’s Meath or Wexford.”