Meath’s Jordan Morris and Longford’s Patrick Fox race for possession during Sunday’s Leinster SFC clash at Pearse Park. Photo: David Mullen/

‘That's what defines you as a man, as a footballer, as a warrior’ - Colm O'Rourke looking forward to taking on the Dubs on Sunday

Colm O'Rourke is always a man in demand with the media after Meath games.

We are told there is a protocol in place for talking to the Meath manager after games, but in the difficult to control confines of the dressing room area in Pearse Park those protocols went out the window.

By the time those of us who observed the usual guidelines for post-match interviews got to talk to Colm he had already been cornered by a number of different media outlets and his hoarse voice after a recent run-in with a cold was starting to suffer.

However, O'Rourke still fronted up to the local and national media who remained and gave his usual honest assessment of a roller-coaster of a game that ended in a frenzy of goals.

"I'm certainly very happy with the forward play, particularly the first half. During the league it's a well-known fact that we hadn't scored enough to win big games," the manager told the huddled hoard inside the door of the wind tunnel that accentuated the gale blowing outside.

"We have found it difficult to get goals and we've found it difficult to get more than 12 points, so we focused in on that. We wanted to hit 16 or 17 points and get a goal along way, so I suppose from that point of view we achieved that side of it. We didn't want to be letting in three goals on the other side.

"We've missed Jordy (Morris) and Banty (James Conlon) for the league with injuries and we've been hoping that they would get back because they are natural forwards and natural scorers, so it was a delight to see Banty coming back.

"He had an interrupted preparation, broke a thumb early in the year and has worked really, really hard, and Jordy of course hadn't played a game since I think the Cavan final last October.

"So for both of them to come out in their first game and play like that was good. It was asking a lot of them probably to put them in like that, but they fairly well responded. They were going well in training, so we decided to just give them their chance.

While scoring 3-19 is obviously a significant improvement on the league returns O'Rourke was concerned with the goals leaked by his defence.

"We would be very concerned about that (the goals conceded). We had set out at half time to have a very tight defence for the second half and to keep them to points.

"There were a few individual mistakes and lads are disappointed in there with them, there's no shouting or roaring or anybody getting over the top about the performance because I think they realise that there was a lot of sloppiness there, a lack of concentration and we need to do better.

"We came down here to win and the conditions made it very difficult but as you say the forward accuracy was very good, it was a significant improvement in anything we've achieved before so we'll take a lot of heart from that that at least we can score. What we want to try and ensure is that we don't concede three goals in the first 10 minutes next week against Dublin because if we defend like that the game will be over early."

Next up for Meath is the small task of trying to dethrone the 14-in-a-row defending Leinster champions and current Sam Maguire holders Dublin in Croke Park next Sunday.

Instead of going into that game with fear and trepidation O'Rourke is urging his players to enjoy the occasion and realise that they are living the dream of every Meath footballer.

"I was saying to the lads in there actually that every young fella in Meath growing up wants to go to Croke Park, play on the Meath team and play against Dublin in a big game and they're getting it all together, so we look forward to it," said O'Rourke.

"I know it's a big task and it's a young team, but we're getting better all the time and we're not going to play with fear, we're going to play with confidence.

"They're naturally confident players anyway and I think the big thing is that they do see that there has been an improvement over the last six months.

"In a lot of league games we could see snatches of it, particularly say Kildare, Cavan and Louth games for 20 minutes in each game, we played very well and okay we didn't get results in other games, but we got what we wanted out of the league and training has gone very well.

"They've worked really, really hard and you could even see in the last week that things have improved again.

"Sometimes we were playing by the seat of our pants with taking chances in league games and trying to ensure we stayed up and not rush fellas back from injury. It looks as if it's paid off now at this stage and the hope now of course is that with everybody back fit and well and with Conor Gray maybe back within three or four weeks that we get a bit stronger again and that we'll have a better team for the Sam Maguire series."

There is some questions being asked as to why Meath have to play Dublin in Croke Park next Sunday. Had Longford won last Sunday their game against Dublin would have been in Pearse Park, so did O'Rourke have any explanation as to why the game isn't in Navan.

"I didn't ask any questions about it, there are people with blazers that make all those decisions. Anyway, as a Meath man who was used to going to Croke Park to play Dublin it's where we always wanted to play them," said O'Rourke.

"We want to get our young lads thinking and acting like that and going to Croke Park. Of course not just going for the spin but going to win big games there, that has to be the big ambition for us.

"It's early in the development of this team (to be playing Dublin), but sometimes you have to get up and put your chest out and put your best foot forward.

"When is the right time to go to Croke Park (to play Dublin)? There's none, you have to get on with it and start winning big games there.

"That's what defines you as a man, as a footballer, as a warrior to me. To be able to go to Croke Park and beat Dublin, take them on toe to toe.

"These fellas are as ambitious as any other player, just as ambitious as the team I played with or the team Trevor (Giles) played with. They want to go there, they want to do well," concluded the Meath boss.