It was probably in fourth class that things got serious. Games had been attended for a few years prior to that but it was then that the opportunity to actually become involved arose. Well, it was cultivated. John Moriarity obviously twigged that I’d a fair good understanding of – or at least interest in – football matters. Thus, he gave me a little say in the selection of the school team.
Competition to get one of the blue and white jerseys was intense. Tom Yourell’s field was always a hive of activity after school, but the real adventures lay in the away fixtures. Parents were always nominated to bring players on road trips and my father always happened to be one of them. He wasn’t going to go without me, after all!
Many will know how the story has gone since then. The years I was able to spend as PRO for St Peter’s – and directly involved with teams – will forever count as my happiest. Circumstance has altered the road heartbreakingly in more recent years and the pang of being removed from the action doesn’t dissipate. If anything, it intensifies.
Particularly with so many of our club representing the county with distinction in various roles. The opening weeks of 2017 brought utmost upset. Most obviously at missing the start of Andy McEntee’s journey as Meath senior football manager. It would be earnestly hoped, though, that many would realise absence doesn’t equate to apathy. One is always on the sideline in spirit and will somehow, someday make it back in body.
Attempting to watch hurling in person is probably futile at this stage but as close an eye as is possible is always kept on matters there too. The one thing to emerge from the endeavours of the county teams in both codes so far is that continuity and adventure can be a workable mix. This is certainly the time of year for the latter.
Defeat may ultimately have been the lot for Martin Ennis’s charges and while the concept of moral victories is disdainful, things need to be viewed in context. While a number of the Christy Ring Cup heroes were in action, plenty more had the reins thrown on their neck for the first time in earnest. None more so than Dunboyne’s Sean Quigley and that he and his colleagues were able to compete with such gusto against Offaly on their first outing in the premier pre-season competition must bode well going forward. A fact franked by their conquest of Kildare in their second outing.
Another uplifting feature of the early part of the season has been seeing Trim’s James Toher performing admirably in both football and hurling. Players serving both codes is a rarity these days but last year’s history making captain has proven it can be done. It’d be great to see others follow suit.
At the same time, to read too much into affairs at this time of year amounts to folly. There have certainly been quantities of the two qualities alluded to earlier in the efforts of McEntee’s men so far. Continuity in the sense of members of the minor team of 2012 stepping up to the top table while the adventure comes in the form of players who’ve travelled different routes to the county senior setup. Not to mention battle hardened warriors making welcome returns!
It’s worth remembering that many decorated Meath stars of yesteryear travelled the circuitous route to stardom. For it is with the clubs that all odysseys begin. However, you have to wonder what level of enjoyment there can be for those at club level in light of what has emerged in recent times.
What exactly the newly formed Club Players Association can achieve remains to be seen. Noble though their intentions may be. For all that, something somewhere has to change. Frustration felt by those within clubs is wholly understandable, but the approach being deployed by some entities surely only serves to exacerbate the problem rather than alleviate them.
Someone said to me many years back that the time you stopped enjoying doing something was the time to give it up. And, while close to home it was life’s roadway that necessitated a scaling back of involvement in GAA, it’s a different association now, even to what it was nine years ago when I parked up.
Being anywhere near a county team is now a life consuming thing. There can’t be much fun in it. Especially when chances of success are confined to so few. To some extent, similar could be said of club action. Which makes documentation emanating from certain areas as much worrying as it is baffling.
Success means different things to different people. For Meath, given the competitive nature of their current status in the National League, retention thereof has to be the first aim. It’s no given, but as things stand, gut feeling is they may be capable of making more of an impact than many might think.
To utmost regret, how much of it will be able to be taken in ‘in person’ cannot be specified. Every effort will be made to get to as much action as possible as instinct is to feel it could be a memorable year for both club and county.