25/10/2020, AProudstown Road Navan. Co. Meath. 046-9079044 / 087-2579454.FUJIFILM X-T3ISO: 800; Shutter: 1/1250; Aperture: 3.6;

TAKE FIVE FERGAL LYNCH

PLAYER PLUSES

Down through the years respective managers have often turned to the bench looking for a game changer, someone who can shift momentum or shore up a gap and all too often those resources haven't been there, but that is very much changing and the pandemic pause has give Meath manager Andy McEntee plenty of food for thought.

Against Dublin Cillian O'Sullivan was outstanding, a true leader, so when he picked up a nasty blow to head early on against Monaghan it didn't auger well for Meath's chances.

However, Jordan Morris was thrown on in O'Sullivan's place and he went on to kick seven points in a superb display.

The bench also contributed with Joey Wallace kicking a point, Mat Costello playing a key role on the ball and Eoin Harkin shoring up the defence when David Toner was in trouble with the referee.

The strength-in-depth is certainly improving.

NEVER SAY DIE

Of all the traits of the great Sean Boylan teams of the '80s, '90s and early '00s one aspect stood out more that others – that never-say-die spirit.

There have been times throughout the league when Meath looked set for some right pastings. Slow starts put them on the back foot, but instead of capitulating like other sides might have done, this group of players have dug deep and revived that Meath spirit of fighting to the bitter end and never giving up the ghost.

Of course they have a long way to go to match the heart and guts of the players from the golden era, but they are certainly heading in the right direction.

SILENT STADIUMS

There is no doubting that not having fans at games certainly makes these big games a bizarre experience and without the influence of the supporters the eerie silence can also effect the game.

There were times in Clones on Sunday when referee Joe McQuillan put the whistle to his mouth to blow for what looked like certain penalties, but without the crowds baying for a decision he wasn't pressurised into making those calls.

Whether he was right or wrong is another matter because there certainly seemed to be fouls on Cillian O'Sullivan and Conor McManus that warranted penalties.

Another aspect of the silent stadiums is being able to hear the communication between the players, management and match officials, it all adds to the excitement and maybe mic'ing up referees might be the way forward when we do eventually get fans back into the grounds.

BACKROOM BOYS

After every game the players are clapped on the back for a job well done.

The manager extols the excellence of the performance or bemoans the mistakes that proved costly, but all the while the work of the backroom boys goes on almost unnoticed.

As the players were going through their warm-ups and the management teams were imparting words of wisdom, Paddy Doyle and Michael Doherty were labelling water bottles and taking jerseys off hangers to have them ready.

When the players came to the sideline before the game started everything was there for them, as if by magic.

After the game, nothing was left behind.

All the tops were gathered and the stray bottles disposed of, the footballs and cones were piled into bags and put in the back of Paddy's van, the unheralded work all completed without fuss and as if by magic.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH

While there are certainly strong claims for Jordan Morris to be honoured as Meath's best player because of his magnificent seven point return, the relentless hard work, running, and endeavour of Ronan Jones was unmatched by anyone of the field.

The Dunboyne man was simply superb throughout and while he might have to curtail his steps while embarking on his penetrating runs he made such a huge impact with a wholly positive and encouraging performance that certainly augers well for the future.

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