Jimmy Geoghegan: New manager won't have to look too far for inspiration

Whoever finally does get the role of managing the Meath football team he will have to be in for the long haul. He will need to be patient, someone adept at bringing together a group of people and forging them into a force capable of making an impact. He will need to be a builder, a diplomat - because all the signs are that the job involved restructuring the team will be considerable, long term; from the foundations up.

Some of the older, seasoned campaigners may well move on but there is one man, a member of that older cohort of players, who the new manager will certainly want to remain - Donal Keogan, Meath's man for all seasons.

Not that there has been any indication he is thinking of stepping down but the Rathkenny player is now in his early thirties and has a decade or so of hard campaigning in the green and gold behind him.

The commitment inter-county footballers have to give to the cause now is incredible, hours upon hours of unstinting service and Keogan has certainly given that to Meath football over the years - and more. Then there are the injuries, the knocks and bruises that tend to have a the cumulative effect of diminishing, however gradually, a player's abilities.

How many of the present Meath team would be automatic selections on Meath teams of the past, the All-Ireland winning teams of the 1980s and '90s when you really had to be on your game to get a starting place? Keogan certainly would be an automatic choice.

He has battled year in, year out without much success to sustain him. He is also unfortunate in that he is a true quality player who is playing at a time when Meath are enduring one of their darkest, most barren spells. In that sense he belongs to a group of richly talented footballers in the GAA.

Players such as Mickey Kearins of Sligo, Packie McGarty of Leitrim, Noel Roche of Clare, Declan Browne of Tipperary. Lavishly-talented footballers who played on teams who were never serious contenders for the big prizes. What must it be like to belong to that group? You're a marquee player yet you know you will never feature in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day.

The closest players like McGarty and Kearins got to the big time was turning out for Connacht in the Railway Cup. Kearins did get to an All-Ireland semi-final in 1975 but Sligo were trounced, crushed by the great Kerry team of that era. Otherwise it was mostly a case of turning out in front of small crowds in low-grade games.

The new Meath manager doesn't have to look too far for a source of inspiration - the Meath ladies football team. As an example of a group of players - a trophy-winning machine - capable of taking on the world, they are hard to find.

Manager Eamonn Murray and members of his management team have created an environment in which the players clearly enjoy. You can see it in training and before games. It's all smiles, relaxed. Murray doesn't put any pressure on them, the approach is all about expressing themselves, enjoying themselves. Hard graft is required yes, a high standard but it's about enjoyment too. Fun. 'If a game is lost then, so what, ok it's disappointing but we'll learn from our mistakes and move on.' That seems to be the attitude. The players are filled with a blossoming confidence.

It's a philosophy the manager has generated and embedded into the culture of the team. It's about enjoying your football, it's not about HAVING to win this or that. If success follows well and good. The ladies have created a template that's there to be learned from. The new manager of the men's team could do a lot worse than follow the example set.