Shocker against Carlow will test Meath’s resolve
ANALYSIS Opportunity to bounce back in Ballycran
The expression on Nick Weir's face after Meath had suffered a 0-17 to 5-28 hammering last Sunday said it all. The words too.
"Shocked," said the Meath manager as he stood on the Pairc Tailteann pitch like a general surveying the scene after his army had been annihilated.
After all the hard work, the sense that the team was building up to something, moving forward, Sunday happened - and for all those involved it must have felt like they were hit across the face with a wet towel.
The magnitude of the defeat, the poverty of the performance certainly surprised Weir.
After the game he, the players and members of the backroom team spent a long spell over in a corner of the pitch at the hospital end, trying, no doubt, to work out what went wrong as they stood in a huddle.
"I didn't see this coming at all, I thought we prepared well, thought we had a couple of good sessions done the last fortnight since the Kerry match," said Weir.
"I thought we had corrected a lot of things that went wrong in the Kerry game and that we'd put them right today, but none of those corrections materialised.
"When it started slipping away from us it really started to slip away. We never responded in any shape or form unfortunately.
"This is a hard one to take, a hard one to grasp."
Not that the defeat means all that much in terms of their league placings. The victory over Wicklow a few weeks ago effectively secures Meath's NHL Div 2A status for another year but still there is sure to be collateral damage from Sunday's pasting.
Damage to morale, to confidence and that's what the manager is most concerned about.
Sporting a very different strip from their usual green and gold colours it would be understandable if the players never wanted to play in those jerseys again - as doing so would bring back bad memories of how it all went so badly wrong.
For Weir there were a wide range of worrying aspects to the display.
"The lack of leadership on the field was one thing, that was very disheartening," he continued.
"I mentioned the word character before the match, I wanted to see plenty of character from the boys, but that didn't happen either.
"The leaking of five goals is something else we'll have to look at, only for Charlie (Ennis) it could have been six or seven or eight goals, that's the truth.
"We have a lot of soul searching to do, it will have to be done and try and pick ourselves up and go again."
There were other aspects of the afternoon that left the manager clearly crestfallen. He talked of the "lack of workrate" how the players just didn't get the level of tackles required to contain a Carlow side that played at a different pace.
For much of the second-half the game had all the aura of a challenge game or a training stint and the home players must have been wishing for the final whistle to sound and bring a halt to proceedings. Certainly that's what the manager wanted to happen.
"Once they got a run on us it was lights out, it was only by how much they were going to win in the end.
"By the end we were just hoping to get the game over with, that's just what we wanted to do."
So now, this week, the rubble has to be cleared away and the reconstruction work started - but how?
How do you go about putting the pieces together and getting a team to dust themselves off and get back on the horse?
It's at times like these that managers really earn their crust and players too.
"It's a difficult one, I haven't been in this position before," said Weir.
"I spoke to the guys over in the corner of the pitch and said to them we can go one of two ways.
"We can peg in the tools and go through the motions or we can pick it up and bounce back.
"We have a carrot there for us. We have two games coming up in Ballycran, next Sunday in the league and then in the Joe McDonagh Cup.
"We have a few weeks to get ready for that match. Our next home game is against Kerry, in the Joe McDonagh Cup, that's the carrot for our boys.
"I know the character is there, I know that it is in them, I know because of the way these boys have trained since January.
"That performance today I just didn't see it coming, I've never seen it before, I still say we'll come out of it.
"I still think the lads will respond in a positive manner and get back to play the way I know they can, they are capable of a lot more than they showed today. I know that."
Weir talked of going back to the basics as part of the rebuilding process.
"The players will have to look at themselves and the management too. Could we have done things differently, or done it better?
"As a collective you just have to look at how and why we conceded the goals, how we conceded sloppy frees, didn't win our puckouts.
"In the first quarter we won only four of our first 12 puckouts, all very fundamental stuff that we have to get right again.
"I will go home have a good think about it, where and how we can pick ourselves up again.
"I do feel sorry for the lads who were wearing the jersey today. All the 26 members of the panel were here, we are all in this together.
"I do know the players will respond positively because that's the sort they are, we just have to put a line through this game and go on from here."
The bigger challenge facing Weir and his management may well be in patching up the damage done to the team's morale as a consequence of such a heavy defeat on Sunday.
Repairing that will not be so easy.