IMAGINE scoring 12 goals and 23 points in your last two championship games and still being installed as complete 9/1 outsiders for your next match?
That’s Meath’s position going into this evening’s Leinster final against a Dublin side chasing a 10th successive Leinster football title at Croke Park, throw-in 7pm.
Normally, Meath’s 7-14 against Wicklow and 5-9 against Kildare would count for something in determining a winner, but this is the Dubs, a team looking to bank a sixth successive All-Ireland and seemingly unstoppable.
The bookies make them 1/20 to extend their provincial reign of terror, which started way back in 2011, and Dublin are 4/6 to keep the Sam Maguire Cup for another year.
Even a change in management doesn’t appear to have destabilised the Dubs in the slightest and from the outside looking in it seems business as usual.
So, is there any crumb of comfort for Meath to gorge on?
Maybe there is. Go back to 2010, the year Dublin suffered their last defeat in Leinster, losing to Meath in the semi-final.
And guess what? Meath scored five goals that afternoon in an
Grasping at straws? Probably, but you never know in these unpredictable times.
Dublin are heading for a 59th title and Meath a 22nd, underlining the lop-sided nature of the championship in the province.
The Leinster decider is the first of three provincial finals over the weekend, continuing tomorrow with Cork-Tipperary at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 1.30pm and wrapping up with Donegal-Cavan at the Armagh Athletic Grounds at 4pm.
There’s a similar pattern in these two games as well with Cork and Donegal odds-on favourites to extend their seasons into the fractured All-Ireland series.
Cork are 1/5, Donegal 1/10 and combined with Dublin, it all adds up to 1/35, reflecting the somewhat predictable nature of football compared to hurling, which is far more competitive.
You have to turn to 1935 for Tipp’s last success in Munster, when they won their ninth, whereas Cork have 37 to their name, the most recent in 2012.
The Ulster showdown is a repeat of last season, when Donegal retained their title in a 1-24 to 2-16 triumph and they’re on course to complete a three-in-a-row for their 11th title in all.
Cavan, who head up the roll-of-honour with 39, are attempting to bridge a 13-year gap since their last success.
Cavan have shown tremendous battling qualities in the victories over Monaghan, and more lately Down, but this is their fourth consecutive weekend of action and fatigue must be an issue.
The champions have played a game less over a longer period, too, so Donegal are bound to be fresher coming in.
Dublin, Cork, and Donegal are expected to join Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-finals which feature the champions of Connacht against Munster and Leinster and Ulster.
But, who’ll make up the hurling semi-finals is a completely different story entirely because this afternoon’s pair of quarter-finals are very difficult to call.
First up at the Gaelic Grounds at 1.15pm is Tipperary-Galway with the champions returning to the scene of their narrow win over Cork a week ago while the Westerners have to get back on the horse fairly pronto after Kilkenny’s smash-and-grab Leinster final victory.
Tipp are the marginal fancies, but this could go either way and it’s the same situation in the other tie between Clare and Waterford at Páirc Ui Chaoimh at 3.45pm.
Again, it’s one team, Clare, coming off the back of a big win over Wexford while Waterford lost to Limerick in the Munster final. Limerick and Kilkenny await the identities of their semi-final opponents.