Weir delighted with first win at the 11th attempt
After 10 reversals in the Tier 2HC Joe McDonagh Cup, Meath hurlers eventually got across the line in first place at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday evening with a four-point victory against last year's beaten finalists Kerry.
This was a hugely impressive performance by the Meath players and one that ranks with some of the best that I have witnessed in over 30 years reporting on the fortunes of the Royal County hurlers.
Fair to suggest that success hasn't been too frequent a guest during that period that dates to the mid-to-late 1980s, but Saturday's performance was rightly embellished with a thoroughly deserved victory against a Kerry team that next Saturday will tussle with Westmeath in the Joe McDonagh Cup final.
At a separate venue on Saturday Meath will complete their inter-county campaign for 2021 with a relegation play-off showdown against last year's Christy Ring Cup champions, Kildare.
There won't be any silverware on offer, but the prize for the winner is a place in the 2022 Joe McDonagh Cup. Another enormous effort will be required from the Meath players when they tackle a Kildare team that lost to Westmeath in Mullingar on Saturday by a point (1-21 to 2-19).
Meath manager Nick Weir was at the Mullingar venue for that game and suggested to the Meath Chronicle that the play-off would represent another significant challenge for his team.
"We got the first win in the competition and that was important, now we have to get another victory because it's vital for Meath hurling that we keep our place in the Joe McDonagh Cup," he commented as he reflected on the win against Kerry only minutes after Saturday's final whistle.
It was evident that it was an emotional occasion for the Westmeath man and that he was immensely proud of the way his players stood up to the challenge of a Kerry side that was expected to win comfortably in Navan.
"It's great for the players, to get that first win, we were rated as no-hopers going into this game, but I have always had belief in the players and it was fitting I suppose that they got the first win here in Pairc Tailteann," he added.
"The first thing I was looking for today was a performance, then I wanted a win, I suppose it was too much to ask for a big enough winning margin to make the final, but we got two out of the three and that's not bad.
"What this result here today shows is that we have a group of players who want to represent Meath, represent their clubs, represent their families with pride and that was plain to see over the 70 minutes of this game.
"We had a chat at half-time, we were well in the game and I asked the players to keep doing what they were doing and they did that.
"We stopped conceding the soft frees in the second-half and the scores dried up for Kerry, I watched Kerry a few weeks ago in Tralee against Down and I knew that if we stopped conceding frees we would have a chance.
"We missed too many chances in the first-half, but we made up for it in the second-half.
"We worked hard to get this win, a lot of work in training and we got the reward today, we now have to carry this form into next Saturday’s play-off against Kildare.
"Both teams want to stay in the Joe McDonagh Cup and it's up to us now to make sure that Meath will be there in 2022," he concluded.