Meath minor football manager Joe Treanor is enjoying the build up to next Saturday’s All-Ireland MFC semi-final against Galway at Croke Park.
He discussed the prospects of success at an informal media event that took place in the old stand at Pairc Tailteann.
Out on the pitch the players went through the concluding stages of a training session under the guidance of selectors Paul Nestor, Paul Murphy, Owen Ganly and Paddy Gilsenan.
The atmosphere was relaxed and the players certainly appeared to enjoy the session as they prepared for a big game at Croke Park.
For Treanor, a Monaghan native, this is a journey that began with some tentative steps at a u-12 school of excellence about five years ago and began to take some serious shape when he was appointed to the role of Meath u-14 manager.
“I was involved with this panel in a school of excellence when they were under-12 and then I was appointed u-14 manager, I think the first formal training session with this squad was on 29th March 2015 so it has been a long road so far and we still have a bit to go to get to the end of the journey,” he told the Meath Chronicle.
“This has been a long-term project, we’ve known since these guys were under-15 that we had a special bunch of players here.
“That particular year, at u-15, we played 23 games and I think we lost only two of them, that was a real sign that we had potential.
“Last year we did quite well in the Oldcastle under-16 Gerry Reilly tournament, after that we had two teams in the Fr Manning Cup at the end of the year, both of our teams made it to the semi-finals and that was against single entry teams from other counties,” he added.
Treanor has a belief that this panel has great potential and that an All-Ireland semi-final will give the players an opportunity to show what they are capable of.
“It’s great to still be in the championship heading into the middle of August, we are getting ready for game nine of a 10-game campaign,” he said.
“For us it’s a case of so far, so good, I’m really happy with the way the lads have been performing, we had a couple of great wins along the way.
“For Saturday next, Galway will present a load of new challenges for us, but we are in a good place at the moment.
“We knew we had a strong squad, we had some players who came back into the panel from last year’s Leinster u-17 FC succcess, once we were able to get playing as a team we knew we would give Leinster and the All-Ireland a good rattle this year.
“Winning that Leinster u-17 FC last year was a boost for the county, but it probably cost us a Gerry Reilly title because three of the current players were with Ronan (Kearns) the u-17 manager at the time - Cian McBride, Matthew Costello and Conor Harford.
“That Leinster u-17 was a bigger competition and it was more important to win that, it gave Meath a taste of winning a provincial championship again and it also set a target for us,” he suggested.
Winning a Leinster MFC title was the first target and that objective was achieved although the team endured a few nervous moments against Dublin and Offaly in the qualifying phase of the competition.
“We had a tough challenge against Dublin and then Offaly gave us a good scare here in Navan, then we had Derry in Armagh last week, the Derry and Dublin games were the toughest,” said Treanor.
“Some of the other games were more comfortable for us, but it’s not going to get any easier now.
“We are in the last four and Galway are next, the four teams remaining, Meath, Galway, Monaghan and Kerry are all good sides.
“The other semi-final, Monaghan have a decent team and Kerry are going for five in-a-row so they will want to maintain that momentum.
“The first-half we produced against Derry was a good start for us, we had made a conscious decision to target that, we had been slow to start against Dublin and Offaly and we had to address that particular aspect of our game.
“While our first-half performances have improved significantly, the downside of that now is the third-quarter we had against Derry for example, that wasn’t good enough.
“However, it’s interesting to note that over the past few weeks some of Meath supporters have remarked that there are similarities between this team and the successful Sean Boylan teams - Sean’s teams didn’t quit and this team doesn’t quit.
“Against Dublin we had to go to the 60th minute to win, it was the same against Offaly and again last week against Derry, the game isn’t over until the referee decides it’s over.
“The lads picked it up a gear or two in all those games.
“Against Derry, the wet conditions were difficult and they changed it around a bit for the second-half, our lead at half-time (1-10 to 0-4) was probably artificially inflated by the strength of the wind and the rain, Derry had the benefit of that for the second-half.
“But we also stopped playing for 15 minutes or so and we can’t do that again and expect to get away with it.
“Credit to the players, they responded and we got through, that will stand to us also.
“At training after that Derry game we had some straight talking, a serious talk about how far we want to go in this competition.
“This team is very capable of doing a lot of damage in this competition provided they have their heads right and deliver what they’re capable of delivering.
“I’ve had a chance to assess Galway after they got through against Clare, but it’s only now that we are concentrating on that, it’s just one game at a time, and Galway is the next one,” he added.
Regarding team selection, the competition for places is intense and there are number of minor injury concerns, the biggest concern is for St Vincent’s player Conor Harford.
“Conor is still on the recovery path from the injury he sustained against Kildare, he was in the u-17 Leinster-winning team last year and we will wait to see if he will be ready, there won’t be any pressure on him,” stated Treanor.
“Croke Park will provide a different challenge, but so too did the Athletic Grounds in Armagh, we had never played there before until the Derry game.
“The big pitch in Croke Park will suit us, we are an expansive team, the big pitch will definitely suit us and we are all looking forward to the challenge that the day will bring,” he concluded.