Meath manager Colm O’Rourke exchanges a handshake with Dublin boss Dessie Farrell.

'We were outplayed everywhere on the pitch'... O’Rourke admits rebuilding could take years

Expectations weren't very high going into Saturday's NFL Div 2 clash with Dublin at Pairc Tailteann.

All anyone was looking for was a performance, an effort filled with grit, determination and passion. That would have sufficed. Instead Meath were insipid. Out-played, out-manoeuvered and out-muscled by an outstanding Dublin side.

The stark reality of the huge job of work ahead for Colm O'Rourke and his management team was rammed forcibly home by a Dublin side that looked capable of launching a serious bid for ultimate summer honours.

No one expected a Meath victory on Saturday, maybe that was part of the problem. Even the Meath players didn't believe it was possible and from very early on they gave up the ghost and that frustrated O'Rourke.

"Very frustrating to watch, we got a going over from start to finish and it just demonstrates the long road ahead for us to be a match for a team like Dublin who are among the top two or three teams and we are a long long way behind," said the manager.

"The Derry and Dublin games have demonstrated clearly to us that we have a very long road to travel.

"We cannot make any excuses. We were outplayed. I know they probably have some of the greatest players ever seen in football, but at the same time it was disappointing that we weren’t able to put up a better fight against them.

"We didn’t bring the sort of energy to it and passion that we would liked to have brought and I would say the players will be very disappointed with that.

"Dublin by scoring everything in the first 10 minutes, I think they had five shots, five points, it took the wind out of our sails and even though we got the goal which should have given us a big lift and get us back into the game, again we weren’t able to build on that.

"Overall we were outplayed everywhere on the pitch so it was disappointing.

"Every time we carried the ball into the tackle we either lost it or had a free given against us.

"The physical conditioning over years of many of their players was very evident in those confrontations whereas a lot of our players are not up to that type of conditioning yet so it is something we have to work on and be patient.

"When you look at our full back line that were playing together for the first time in this league and a lot of other players with relatively little experience, things will get better but it is going to be a slow process."

Meath have a long way to go to match the intensity, physicality and skill levels that Dublin displayed on Saturday. O'Rourke admitted that there isn't an overnight fix to the Royal woes, but he insisted the players need to learn from the harsh experiences of games like last Saturdays and the hammering against Derry in Owenbeg.

"Dublin demonstrated to us at close range what it is like to get to that level and hopefully our players will go home this evening with an even greater desire to get to that level because their (Dublin's) physical conditioning, mental stability, work rate, their commitment and sheer hardness in their approach to the game is an example to all teams," admitted O'Rourke.

"I don’t think we could blame confidence in any shape or form. Obviously the Limerick game was a disappointment but players have to build themselves up for big games like these.

"When you build a new team, and I have seen it myself on a lot of occasions, there can be a lot of big disappointments on the way to getting there. We just have to come back from that, put our heads down and get working again. This process is not going to be done in weeks or months, it could take years."

Digging deep to find any positives from Saturday's mauling O'Rourke was pleased that his players kept going in the face of such overwhelming adversity.

However, he admitted it was next to impossible to pick any meat from the bones of such a crushing defeat.

"In the last 10 minutes we maintained our competitiveness and the lads kept trying so that was the big plus," replied O'Rourke after considering his answer.

“The reality is we were grasping at straws to take that out of it. There wasn't much good to come out of it, but good players learn from bad defeats.

"There is no player who hasn’t recovered from bad defeats and gone on to be successful. They will always look back on the past and maybe say they got a humiliation from someone and decide as individuals, and as a group, that maybe they aren’t willing to go down that road again and that is what drives on great players."

Are Dublin still one of those great teams? O'Rourke firmly believes so.

"I was assessing them from the studio last year and I thought there was very little between them and Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final and Kerry went on to win with a last minute point and then won the All-Ireland so they weren’t too far away last year," said the Meath manager.

"They weren’t too far away the year before either, they seemed to have a mental collapse against Mayo but when you have players like Fenton, McCarthy, Kilkenny, O’Callaghan, Costello, Brian Howard coming on, Eoin Murchan, Mick Fitzsimons, Davy Byrne there are very few teams in the country that can match that for quality.

"We don’t have that quality but we are working hard at it. Hopefully we have a decent under-20 side which will help bring players forward.

"We have left them with the u-20 team, people will say you should have them in on the panel but we would like to give them the opportunity to play with their own group at the moment."

Even though Meath are safe from relegation O'Rourke is well aware that next Sunday's final round game against struggling Kildare is huge in terms of what competition the Royals might be playing their summer football in.

Meath need a win to have any chance of finishing in the top four and hope that Louth, as is expected, lose to Dublin, but O'Rourke has been hit a further blow with Donal Keogan likely to miss out due to a hamstring problem.

"It looks like it (hamstring injury for Keogan), more injury problems on top of a good few already.

So from that point of view it has been a costly game on the injury front but to get a hiding like that is not nice - or good for morale.

"We need as reaction now going to Kildare. It is now going to be very difficult. It is a very, very big game because we are not guaranteed that we are going to be in the last 16 of the Sam Maguire.

"There is a lot at stake in this particular game. We still have our destiny in our own hands. We will not be worrying or talking about anybody else doing us favours.

“We need to look after our own business and hopefully do that against Kildare," concluded the Meath manager.