By Brendan Boylan,
Turning on the computer to find an email from Jim Dreaper recently was quite exciting. His is undoubtedly the most famous family name in Irish National Hunt racing owing to his late father’s exploits with the legendary Arkle and many other star horses. Before opening the correspondence, my mind was awash with possibilities as to what it might pertain to: Was he inviting me to visit his yard? Or offering to train a horse for me? I got quite a surprise. Now read on…
Jim was actually offering me his observations on the Meath/Wicklow Leinster SFC match. And the coverage thereof. He made a very valid point which its surprising wasn’t picked up on before. At some point in recent years, somebody somewhere decided to make the Meath jersey a darker shade of green that what it had been for the majority of my lifetime. Probably for generations before that too.
It can’t be put down to the change of sponsor a few years ago – the colour had dimmed while the previous benefactor was still emblazoned on the shirts. Now, 90% of the time, it wouldn’t be a problem, but JTR’s point – and it was a valid one – was that Meath’s darkened shade of green was difficult to discern from the Wicklow blue. Granted, the very welcome sunshine only exacerbated the case, but surely there was a case for one of them changing to a second strip.
The other, and more apt, point made has to be regarding the poor standard of coverage devoted by RTE to the clash in Carlow. Apart from the fact that it sold supporters from both counties very short – viewers from Monaghan and Antrim would be entitled to a similar gripe – it calls into question the point of having an evening highlights show at all.
You see, a sizable portion of The Sunday Game evening transmission on May 27th was devoted to the double header in Thurles which featured Tipperary and Limerick in hurling and Kerry and Tipp in football, despite both matches already having been broadcast during the day. Right, so the Thurles double ticket contained the beaten All Ireland finalists in both codes from last term, but with programmes now available online for three weeks after original airing, and with both games having already been on live, surely fair play would’ve been to show more of the matches that weren’t shown during the day.
Anyway, to move onto the actual football, it was a good start for Meath, if only we’d seen more of it! Well, to temper that slightly, the eventual outcome of the day’s events was satisfactory, but, from a Meath perspective, the opening quarter of the game was anything but good.
Wicklow’s inside triumvirate – Tony Hannon and Sean Furlong and John McGrath – caused the Royal rearguard no end of problems. Losing Seamus Kenny (for the season as it happens) was another blow, but, once they stopped turning over ball in the tackle and got their running attack play going, Meath actually played some very attractive stuff.
Nobody more so than Graham Reilly. After lighting up his debut season, the St Colmcille’s clubman wasn’t quite as prominent in 2011 or in the early part of this year. Against Wicklow however, he was back to his brilliant best and with Reilly buzzing Meath beamed. Brian Farrell enjoyed his best outing for some time too. And, after the shaky opening, the defence improved as the game went on too. Kevin Reilly excelled throughout while Donnacha Tobin and Donal Keogan played themselves into the game well.
Joe Sheridan’s influence increased as the day went on too, particularly when he moved outfield during the second half. He’ll come on for the run out, and it was great to see his brother, Brian, enter the fray near the end too. The latter will surely push for a starting place the next day.
Time for a dose of perspective now though. With respect to Wicklow, much bigger hurdles await. It took Meath a long time – when David Gallagher produced an outstanding save and Wicklow midfielder James Stafford was sent off (harshly in my view) – to look comfortable in this match. In ways though, the biggest hurdle may have been crossed. They’ll beat Carlow, further progression down the main road after that would be considered a bonus.
As ever between matches though, there’ll be housekeeping to be done. Unfortunately, some of it has become even more drastic with Kenny’s ailment having been confirmed as campaign ending. This team isn’t awash with leadership figures as other Meath teams have been in the past and Kenny’s forced defection is another blow to that situation.
Still, such circumstances open the door for others to step up to the plate. Despite what many might think, the vibes are there’s a feel good factor in the camp after the Wicklow game,. If, as expected, they defeat Carlow, momentum will be added to that. With those factors in place, there’s no reason the journey can’t continue for a while.