Meath ready to un-Laois fury

Story by Fergal Lynch

Friday, 7th June, 2019 11:40am

Meath ready to un-Laois fury

Bryan mcMahon v Laois.JPG

They haven't been frequent foes in recent years, but when Meath and Laois clash in provincial action it tends to be tight and next Sunday's Leinster SFC semi-final at Croke Park (2pm) is likely to be no different.

It is over nine years since Meath and Laois last locked horns in the Leinster SFC and that quarter-final needed a replay to separate the sides with Meath striking late to force the draw before coasting to a 10-point win in the replay.
Eamonn O'Brien's side went to win the Leinster crown that year in circumstances that some have suggested have left a curse on Meath football ever since, but there might be signs that the bad luck is starting to lift.
Wary that a clap on the back is only six inches from a kick up the arse Meath will approach next Sunday's semi-final with an air of cautious optimism.
They have been there too often in the recent past. Standing on the cusp of a provincial final with the millstone of favouritism adding extra poundage and they've found those strains too much to bear.
The bare facts suggest one-way traffic in Croke Park next Sunday. Meath were exceptional in securing promotion from Div 2, losing just one game on their way to the final and putting up several outstanding performances along the way.
Laois too also made the leap to a higher grade, but the quality of opposition in Div 3 cannot be regarded to be of a similar level to those faced by Meath.
Laois also lost out in their league final as Westmeath proved too strong for the second time in the spring, but they are an improving outfit and proved that with a determined, deserved victory and revenge over the Lake county men in the Leinster quarter-final.
They have earned their shot at Meath and already they are playing down their chances with manager John Surgue suggesting after the win over Westmeath that his side will have their work cut out for them against the Royals.
The fact is that most sides will have their work cut for them if they are to put one over Andy McEntee's side, but Meath are far from invincible at this level - as their sub-par performance against Offaly in round one suggested.
There was a return to somewhere near their capable best against Carlow, but is that old thorn of inconsistency once more prodding at the minds as they approach a crucial last four clash?
Three Leinster SFC games in the one year is something of a rarity these days for Meath, but with Div 3 opposition in the opening three rounds, Meath should be expecting to stretch their provincial campaign to four games and a tilt at the all-conquering Dubs.
However, if Meath take their eye off the ball next Sunday they will undoubtedly be teary-eyed and bloody-nosed.
Laois are no mugs, and while there is little in the way of recent form to judge both sides against each other, Meath will know that it has been rarely been easy against the O'Moore men.
There was an O'Byrne Cup opener at the tail end of 2018 which Meath won handily in atrocious conditions - nothing can be read into that game - so just how do we assess both sides?
League form and performances can be the only reliable indicator of form. The opening games in the Leinster SFC can also tell a story, but until sides clash in the white heat of championship battle the outcome is always unpredictable.
We can only dwell on the ifs, ands, buts and maybes and by most factors Meath should be too strong.
Their mental fortitude has been steeled by some exceptional displays in the league, their willingness to battle and dig deep was tested by Offaly and the bouncebackability was tested and passed against Carlow.
Sure Laois have their dangermen and in Evan O'Carroll they have one of the most exciting marksmen in the country.
Not only will he need to be kept quiet, but the supply into him has to be disrupted and that could lead to a fractious game that could go right down to the wire.
Meath should have too much class for Laois. Players of the quality of Donal Keogan, Bryan Menton, Mickey Newman and Bryan McMahon are phenomenally talented.
Teak tough, steely determination is provided by Cormac McGill, Gavin McCoy and Padraic Harnan, while all the silky skills of Cillian O'Sullivan, Ben Brennan and James Conlon could tie Laois in knots.
It will boil down to a bounce of a ball here, a tip of a fingernail there, but no matter what and no matter how, Meath must win if they are to continue along their current path of redemption.
 

LAST 10 LEINSTER 
SFC MEETINGS

2010 - Meath 2-13, Laois 1-16; replay - Meath 2-14, Laois 0-10.
2004 - Meath 0-9, Laois 1-13.
1996 - Meath 2-14, Laois 1-9.
1994 - Meath 0-20, Laois 2-10.
1993 - Meath 1-12, Laois 0-7
1992 - Meath 1-11, Laois 2-11.
1991 - Meath 1-11, Laois 0-8.
1990 - Meath 4-14, Laois 0-6.
1987 - Meath 1-11, Laois 2-5.

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