Is there anything to be said for a bit of inward inspection?

Remember the episode of Father Ted where Fr Dougal ends up on the explosive milk float? In the midst of frantic efforts to rescue the dim-witted young priest Fr Beeching – one of a fairly unimaginative think tank brought in by Crilly to aid in the crisis – organises a Mass on a bale trailer pulled by a dumper. When that fails, all manner of chaotic proposals are put forward until the monotonous Beeching lamentably wonders “Is there anything to be said for seeing another Mass?” #MeathGaa #MickODowd #GAA #CrokePark

Of course, in the end, the strife was averted by placing Jack’s beloved brick on the accelerator and Dougal disembarking. There’s a lesson there – the most obvious solution is often straight ahead if you can or want to see it. Like placing a mobile phone, the back of which is usually black, adjacent to something of similar hue, it can be staring at you for a long time before you see it.

Similar sentiments could, I reckon, without much dissent, be applied to how things currently stand regarding Meath football. Whenever a championship season concludes, rightly or wrongly, Exhibit A in the ensuing debate tends to be a post-mortem into the performance of the team management. And the removal thereof seems to be the patented solution to all ills.

At this point, this corner would admit that I hadn’t foreseen the appointment of Mick O’Dowd. For personal reasons, it was hoped another former Meath player may have been given the opportunity. However, the decision was made and thereafter hope would have been that things work out well for Mick and Trevor Giles and Sean Kelly and their efforts given due support. Let it be made abundantly clear again, Meath – or Dunboyne – teams doing well is important to me on levels far more important than sporting ones.

To their credit, they immediately secured promotion from the abyss of the third tier of the National League. Achieving stability on the next rung of the ladder is a commendable feat in itself and will be even more so in 2016 given some of the sides who will reside alongside Meath.

Have there been disappointments in recent years? Unquestionably. Even ascent and consolidation in league terms cannot disguise the inclination that Meath have lost ground in relation to their championship standing. Seeing individuals of proven class and quality perhaps prematurely jettisoned and others defect from the setup wouldn’t inspire much confidence either.

However, here is – as far as I’m considered – the nub of the issue: Is there anything to be said for a bit of inward inspection? Anyone who takes on to manage any team – club or county – deserves utmost respect and admiration. Equally, anyone who does so sets out with the hope and aspiration that their toil will yield fruit.

Now consider that Meath haven’t won a Leinster MFC since 2008 and haven’t reigned in the province at the other underage grade for what’s now entering a fifteenth year. From that minor team, Bryan Menton, Andy Tormey, Damien Carroll, Mickey Newman and Donncha Tobin are now part of the senior panel. Off of the Andy McEntee managed U-18 team of 2012 – Leinster and All Ireland finalists – James McEntee and Harry Rooney and Adam Flanagan and Padraic Harnan and Brian Power have thus far made the step up.

Not a bad return at all in either case. What is worrying is that it took four years between one autumnal amble in Croke Park and the other. That observation is not in any way meant as a slight against players or mentors of any of the Meath teams. It was merely utilised in comparative terms against the regularity with which counties like Dublin, Kildare, Longford, Tipperary, Tyrone, Mayo, Roscommon and Donegal have been contesting and winning big games at that level.

Cognisance of the resources and structure available to Dublin is acute. That said, Dublin has always and will always have those advantages, yet Meath were perennially able to compete, very often successfully, with gusto. No matter how well endowed the other named teams might be, their assets surely can’t be on parity with those in the capital. Yet, in some ways at least, they have surpassed Meath.

Having completed their allotted three year term, it stands to reason that things be reviewed and, by extension, club delegates be given the opportunity to have their say. However, kneejerk, reactionary decisions can be both unfair and counterproductive. Minds need only by cast back to 2010 to see that.

For all that the existence of an appetite for change might in some ways be understandable, some – the best parts – of the reaction to the Westmeath defeat was hysterical. The worst thereof was vile and a dark day for the county. How often has it been said, though, that momentum is sometimes the most decisive factor in sport?

The fact is that Westmeath got a run on Meath and such scenarios can be impossible to arrest. Being honest, hope would still be that a certain former star will one day get the chance to do the job. For now though, there may be bigger issues to remedy. The appointment of Sean Boylan, Colm O’Rourke and Gerry McEntee to a committee may eventually yield results. At present, it’s unclear what changing manager might achieve.


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