Meath unchanged for Clare test
Meath manager Andy McEntee has named an unchanged side for the second game in a row ahead of Saturday's NFL Div 2 clash with Clare in Ennis today, 1.30pm.
Gavin McCoy, who was replaced at half-time of the victory over Kildare, retains his place as Niall Kane is ruled out through injury, while the returning James McEntee must be content with a place on the bench.
Meath's other big injury concern Ben Brennan looks to have over come his knee issue picked up late on in the win over Kildare and he is scheduled to start at centre-forward.
Meath (v Clare) - Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Ronan Ryan; Gavin McCoy, Donal Keogan, Shane Gallagher; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Cillian O'Sullivan, Ben Brennan, Darragh Campion; Bryan McMahon, Michael Newman, Thomas O’Reilly. Subs - Mark Brennan, Michael Burke, Adam Flanagan, James McEntee, Graham Reilly, Eoin Lynch, Barry Dardis, Ethan Devine, James Conlon, Sean Curran, Padraic Harnan.
Here's a small bit of advice and a word of warning for all the Meath supporters heading to Ennis for the crucial NFL Div 2 clash with Clare today - allow plenty of time to get there because there could be St Patrick's weekend parades in some towns along the way and certainly don't take it for granted that the Banner will be defeated
The advice you can take or leave, but Meath would be foolish not to heed the words of warning ahead of what is a massive game in terms of the progress of football in the Royal county.
If Meath win today and results elsewhere go their way then Andy McEntee's side could be promoted to Div 1 for the first time since 2006 and end almost 13 years in the wilderness.
However, defeat in Clare would seriously scupper Meath's chances and will mean nothing short of victory over Fermanagh in the final game in Navan on Sunday 24th March will do.
All the signs suggest a Meath victory over Clare.
Last year Clare travelled to Navan and were walloped by 14 points, 0-21 to 0-7, and the year before Meath earned a 3-19 to 1-13 win over the Banner in Cusack Park.
However, closer analysis of last year's win suggest it wasn't as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests.
Supporters will do well to remember that on that occasion Meath led by just 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time and immediately after the restart Gary Brennan burst through the Meath defence and blasted a great goal chance over the bar.
If he had hit the net at that stage the outcome could have been much different.
Meath breathed a huge sigh of relief at that le- off and kicked on with James McEntee, Brian Conlon and Padraig McKeever inspiring them to victory while Eamon Wallace and Sean Tobin came on as subs to kick six points between them.
That result was an aberration on Clare's campaign and they were actually very competitive throughout last year's league and were never in danger of being dragged into the relegation saga like Meath were.
Clare drew with Cavan, who were promoted, and Tipperary, while they also scored wins over Down, Cork and Louth and rattled Roscommon - so they are no mugs.
Surprisingly Clare find themselves flirting with relegation this year, but there have been signs in most of their performances that they are capable of a big showing.
In the opening round Podge Collins's side only lost by three points to Donegal before securing a deserved draw with Armagh in Newry in round two.
A nine-point victory over Cork in the third round put them in the promotion mix, but those hopes faded with losses away to Kildare and Fermanagh.
Kildare were made to work very hard for their 1-16 to 0-13 win over Clare while the defensive structure of Fermanagh gave them a marginal edge two weeks ago in Enniskillen.
So Meath would be foolish to take anything for granted.
Four wins from their five outings suggests Meath have found that level of consistency they have been craving for a decade or more.
The 0-14 to 1-13 loss to Donegal in Ballybofey was a disappointing conclusion to a promising display, but since then Meath have bounced back in style with wins over Armagh, Cork and most notably two weeks ago against Kildare.
Confidence is high in the Meath camp and there is a strong belief they can achieve promotion, but it is very much one game at a time.
The team is likely to be much changed from the side that hammered Clare last year.
It is likely only eight of the players that started that game will start next Saturday.
Manager McEntee will also have to plan without Niall Kane, but he is hoping to welcome back James McEntee into the fold.
Everything points to a Meath win in Ennis, but they will have to survive a siege if they are to move one step closer towards securing that elusive promotion.