Double success reason to celebrate for Bulfin

In his report to Meath GAA convention, which will be held next Monday week, Meath senior hurling manager Seoirse Bulfin reflects on his side's successul season that saw them win 13 of their 16 competitive games and claim league and Ring Cup glory. Read the manager's full report below.

2023 was a hugely successful year for Meath Senior Hurling following the disappointment of 2022. Having participated in three official GAA competitions, the Kehoe Cup, National Hurling League 2B and Christy Ring Cup, we played sixteen games, winning 13. In all, 41 players represented Meath across these three competitions, with 12 players making their competitive debut for Meath at the adult level across all three competitions.

The Kehoe Cup afforded us an opportunity to see as many of the panel as possible play competitive games, after an immense effort put in by these players in pre-season.

Two of the three games we lost during the year occurred in this competition and it was notable that these losses came against teams playing a level above us. In fact, Kildare (contested the 2A final a couple of months later) and Carlow (Joe McDonagh Champions in May) only succumbed after two very entertaining battles.

We had two main aims for 2023 and they were to immediately bounce back into 2A of the NHL and to regain our Joe McDonagh status. It is with great pleasure and an immense sense of pride that I am writing this report having successfully completed both goals. Having gone through the league unbeaten, including winning away to Sligo, uTyrone, and London, a nervy and tense final against a dogged Donegal outfit was finally secured with a late scoring salvo that saw us regain our 2A status. Throughout this league campaign, we integrated several debutants into the starting 15, perhaps the pick of these new players were Kyle Donnelly and Niall McLarnon.

So it was onto the Championship, the goal of regaining our Joe McDonagh status commenced against the previous year’s Christy Ring finalists, Mayo. Buoyed by an influx of Tooreen players who had gone agonisingly close to winning an intermediate club championship two months previous, our lads showed tremendous game management to just keep Mayo at arm’s length throughout. A hugely important victory given the next two games were away to London and Derry. While never quite putting London away, we paid the ultimate price when losing out late in the game. At this point, our year came down to travelling to Derry six days later, knowing we had to win, or the campaign would effectively be over with a couple of games to spare. This task was made even more difficult when we lost Damien Healy to an ACL injury in the middle of the week leading up to this game, before having a player sent off on a straight red twenty minutes into the

game. However, that second-half performance was the catalyst for the remainder of the year. The work rate and scoring efficiency from the 14 remaining players meant that this win against all the odds, put us in pole position to again qualify for the Christy Ring Cup final. Winning our remaining two games, at home to Tyrone before beating Sligo away, ensured we were heading back to Croke Park and another meeting with Derry.

Saturday, June 3rd 2023, will live long in the memory when what was arguably the perfect half of hurling saw us lead by ten points at the short whistle. This almost perfect half of hurling had to be replaced with a resolute and dogged second half when Derry threw everything at us, only for Meath to hold their own and ultimately annex the title by a couple of points. That drew our year to a close having fulfilled both goals outlined at the start of the year.

From an expenditure perspective, we were acutely aware that we had to cut our cloth according to its measure after being relegated in 2022. Apart from the two trips to London, we had one overnight and that was in Derry. Being able to spend that night prior to the game together, going over our analysis for the game, as well as waking fresh the morning of the game was a hugely beneficial factor in winning what turned out to be the most pivotal game of the year. I would like to thank the County Board for facilitating this request.

Meath hurling manager Seoirse Bulfin at the final whistle during the Meath v Derry, Christy Ring Cup final game in Croke Park, Dublin.Photo: Gerry Shanahan-www.sportinmotion.ie03-06-2023 Photo by Gerry Shanahan

I have publicly always stated that Meath GAA are very supportive of the hurlers given that it is the second sport in the county. I would expect our expenses to rise this year as we have away games in Kerry and the Ards Peninsula. The latter, potentially being a league decider of one nature or another. It will be a hugely challenging year in 2024.

Playing against the likes of Westmeath, Offaly, and Laois will mean our main aim for 2024 will be to consolidate our status in the league and championship, thus providing a platform for further development in 2025.

On a personal level, I would like to thank John Kavanagh and wish him well in his time away from the chair. John was always very balanced and amenable in any dealings I had with him, and I always found him fair and supportive. I would also like to mention Jim, Eugene, Nick, Brian, and Colin, having dealt with them regularly I found them all to be exceptionally passionate Meath GAA people who have always been very helpful in all my dealings to date. Tara, Olivia, and Eugene in Dunganny are fantastic to deal with and must be lauded for how well they keep everything ticking over. I hope all these positive interactions continue into 2024. While it is very difficult to pick out any individual over another, I could not complete this report without singling out two hugely supportive people. Ciarán Flynn and Martin O’Halloran hear from me more times daily than my wife does! They are always on the other end of the phone to advise and guide and to offer whatever support they can when requested of them. Their patience and general good humour even in trying circumstances make my job so much easier. Any request from me will be met with a measured and sensible reply and I cannot remember any time when they said NO……initially anyway!

Thanks also to the local media, Fergal, Jimmy, Brendan, and Davy, who continue to provide a fantastic platform for Meath Gaelic Games to be broadcast and promoted far and wide.

Here’s to an exciting and successful 2024 for all involved in Meath GAA.