Andy positive ahead of trip to Parnell Park
Narrow reversals against the top two placed NFL Div 1 teams more than seven months ago could be a catalyst for Meath to transform 2020 into a positive end of year report for manager Andy McEntee.
The answer to that suggestion will be a little bit clearer on Saturday evening around 8.20pm at the conclusion of Meath's trip to the home of All-Ireland SFC champions Dublin for a NFL Div 1 sixth round behind-closed-doors tie at Parnell Park, 7pm.
For Meath supporters the attention will all focus on the performance and a victory would be a welcome bonus despite the fact that relegation is already confirmed for the Royal County heading into 2021.
The result against Dublin will have no bearing on Meath's status for 2021 with that drop to Div 2 confirmed after that two-point defeat (1-12 to 1-14) by Galway at Pairc Tailteann on Sunday 1st March.
Seven months and not a lot of football later, manager McEntee and his Dublin counterpart Dessie Farrell will be venturing into October inter-county football for the first time.
It will be a real journey into the unknown in a sense.
"It's a most unusual situation for everyone, all the other counties as well, but we are doing all we can and we are making the best preparations we can," the Meath manager told the Meath Chronicle.
"We have had players coming back to us from various stages of the club championships, it was a little bit staggered due to the almost knock-out format this year.
"Some of the players only came back into the panel after the senior final last between Ratoath and Gaeil Colmcille.
"There are positives and negatives to this, we have players back now that would have missed the action earlier this year due to injuries.
"Players like Seamus Lavin, Ronan Jones, Andrew Colgan, they are all fit for action again.
" I think everyone is looking forward to the games against Dublin and Monaghan, it's a great opportunity for us to find out exactly where we are.
"We couldn't ask for any more in terms of preparation for the Leinster SFC quarter-final against Wicklow or Wexford.
"Playing the All-Ireland champions in their own back yard this weekend and then a trip to play a Monaghan side that could be battling to avoid relegation.
"They're the sort of games we want regularly, it's disappointing that we will be in NFL Div 2 for next year, but we still have plenty of football to play over the next month to six weeks.
"Going to play Dublin in an empty Parnell Park, there will be an eerie feeling about the place, it will be a strange atmosphere, but we will have to produce a performance, simple as that.
"Dublin will also want to find out where they are in terms of preparation for the championship also, but the league is a factor for them as well.
"Every team this weekend will want to produce a satisfactory performance, there will be a lot of uncertainty in a sense and from our perspective we are definitely going to benefit from the outing this weekend," he added.
While the games against Dublin and Monaghan are important, the real focus is the Leinster SFC quarter-final against Wexford or Wicklow next month.
Unusually, the championship is a knock-out competition this year, all due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are many GAA people who will only be too delighted that the knock-out element of the championship is back and the Meath manager can see the positive side of that.
"The championship has the knock-out element this year, a lot of people will argue that it should be a knock-out format anyway," he suggested.
"That will add a different dimension to our Leinster SFC quarter-final, regardless of whether it's Wicklow or Wexford.
"It won't be easy, you can be certain of that, and it will also be away, another factor that we have to consider.
"The positive for us is the preparatory games against Dublin and Monaghan, that will have us well tuned for whoever we have to play.
"We will have to perform in that game, our year will be on the line, no second chances this year, we have to win the quarter-final or it's over for us.
"There will be an expectation amongst the supporters that we can win, but that's fine with me, the supporters should be expecting us to win," he added.
The Meath manager was also positive about the club championships this year although he would prefer to see the quarter-finals back for 2021.
One real positive he identified was the fact that clubs had access to all their players in the build up to the start of the championships.
"Looking at the overall picture, the club versus county, there seems to be a general consensus that a split season might be the way to go," he said.
"It appears that the players enjoyed the club action and the format this year, a specific fixture list, there was a lot of certainty about that and it worked well.
"It's difficult at this stage to see where it leaves room for the inter-county players to get a break at the end of the year, but I'm sure a solution to that could be found.
"The split season looks inevitable, the restructured club championship in Meath worked well, the players were positive and enthusiastic about it," he concluded.
The Meath team will be available on the Meath Chronicle website tomorrow morning at 6am.
NEXT UP NFL DIV 1
SATURDAY 17th OCTOBER
Sixth round - Dublin v Meath, Parnell Park, 7pm.
SUNDAY 25th OCTOBER
Seventh round - Monaghan v Meath, Clones, 2pm.
LAST TWO - MEATH
SUNDAY 23rd FEBRUARY
Fourth round (Fitzgerald Stadium) - Kerry1-19, Meath 2-13.
Meath - Marcus Brennan, Robin Clarke, Conor McGill, David Toner; James McEntee (0-1), Ronan Ryan, Donal Keogan (1-0); Bryan Menton (0-1), Brian Conlon; Cillian O’Sullivan (0-2), Bryan McMahon (1-0), Ethan Devine; James Conlon (0-2), Thomas O’Reilly (0-6), Oisin O’Brien (0-1). Subs: Eamon Wallace for Devine, Donal Lenihan for O’Brien, Sean Tobin for J Conlon, Gavin McCoy for B Conlon, Ross Ryan for Ronan Ryan.
SUNDAY 1st MARCH
Fifth round (Pairc Tailteann) - Galway 1-14, Meath 1-12.
Meath - Marcus Brennan; Robin Clarke, Conor McGill, David Toner; James McEntee, Ronan Ryan, Donal Keogan; Bryan Menton (0-2), Brian Conlon; Ethan Devine (1-0), Bryan McMahon (0-3), Cillian O’Sullivan; James Conlon (0-3), Oisin O’Brien (0-1), Thomas O’Reilly. Subs - Shane Walsh for O’Brien, Donal Lenihan (0-3) for Devine, Jack O’Connor for James Conlon, Padraic Harnan for Brian Conlon.
LAST TWO - DUBLIN
SATURDAY 22nd FEBRUARY
Fourth round (Croke Park) - Dublin 1-15, Donegal 1-14.
Dublin - Evan Comerford; Eoin Murchan, David Byrne (0-1), Michael Fitzsimons; Craig Dias, John Small, Cillian O’Shea; Brian Fenton (0-2), Brian Howard (0-2); Niall Scully, Ciaran Kilkenny (0-2), Sean Bugler (0-2); Paul Mannion (1-0), Kevin McManamon, Dean Rock (0-4). Subs - Cormac Costello (0-1) for Dias, Colm Basquel (0-1) for McManamon, Aaron Byrne for Bugler, Paddy Small for Rock.
SATURDAY 29th FEBRUARY
Fifth round (Healy Park) - Tyrone1-10, Dublin 1-7.
Dublin - Evan Comerford, M Fitzsimons, E O’Brien, D Byrne, Eoin Murchan, Colm Basquel (1-0), Cillian O’Shea (0-1), Brian Fenton (0-1), James McCarthy, Brian Howard, Seán Bugler, Niall Scully (0-1), Paul Mannion, Ciarán Kilkenny, Dean Rock (0-4). Subs - Jack McCaffrey for O’Brien, Aaron Byrne for McCaffrey.