Sometimes, mindsets have to change. And that is not only meant regarding matters close to home. What was once unimportant may now be pivotal. The opposite, of course, is also true. As was glaringly illustrated in various different ways lately.
That certain circumstances have altered seismically will be fairly well known to many at this stage. Thus, outings – either sporting or farming or porter related – are far less frequent than was once the case. So, when they do occur they are totally cherished. At this time of year, indulging in the first of the triumvirate mentioned can necessitate a foray into the world of Flat racing.
Notwithstanding a loose connection of sorts to the Jim Bolger establishment, in terms of racing, preference has always been for National Hunt fare. Matters may need a slight re-calibration, however, following the heroics of Padraig Beggy at Epsom in early June. Indeed, cognisance of the fact that the local man was on duty was the main motivation for attending a recent flat fixture in Fairyhouse.
It turned out to be a marvellous evening. As, not only did I get to finally get to congratulate Padraig in person (further good wishes are now due as he recently became a father) but it was equally great to get to spend time with another Dunboyne sporting star, Darragh Lenihan of Blackburn Rovers and Ireland, and his partner, Shauna.
Unfortunately, though, that was where the sporting good news story ended for that week. The first Meath game I was able to attend in a very long time went nothing like to plan. Greatest frustrations in such instances stems from a realisation that our lads didn’t do themselves justice. However, you’d hope that, to some degree at least, there would be a realisation that Kildare are quite an outfit in their own right and, as unpalatable as it may be, are probably at a stage further on in their development than are Meath.
If that was accepted as the case, there’d be no Attenborough-style exploration required to ascertain reasoning for same. Where Kildare have, in recent years, been mopping up titles in the two now (wrongly) defunct underage competitions, for Meath, there has been a worrying and debilitating dearth thereof for too long.
Things may be turning however. It must be something what keeps the wheels turning here which imbues one with a fondness for GAA entities others seem not to think a lot of. Think the Railway Cup, the International Rules Series and, most pointedly in this case, the All Ireland Junior Championships at inter-county level.
Some years back, moves were seemingly afoot to defenestrate the latter named competition. Thankfully, such a catastrophe was averted. Remember, the last All Ireland title Meath won in football was in the said grade in 2003. There may be a turn in the road not too far away though.
Now, that may not seem too obvious given events in Tullamore recently and what continue to be dismal returns at underage level. Mind you, it’s at this point thoughts turn to that old song What A Day For A Daydream. Well, it was more a case of reminiscing about a great evening in Mullingar years ago and hoping that what was another memorable outing most recently could be a premonition of better days ahead for Meath football.
How often has it been aired here previously that Croke Park was akin to a second home for Meath fans for many a summer? Those days seem dim and distant now, but, while there are many who would seek to demean – or as was referenced earlier, abolish – the All Ireland JFC, it was in pursuance of that exact goal that Meath recently captured their first Leinster title in seven years and the first at that level since 2006.
Obviously, again, greatest pride and satisfaction is local. Namely, the contributions of team manager Conor O’Donoghue, selector Ger Robinson, our representative among the playing ranks, Niall Jones, and the team physio, Cathal Brady. On a broader scale, however, hope would be that the comfortable conquest of Louth may prove to be a stepping stone toward better days for the county.
For a few reasons. Firstly, and most basically, as it resulted in the annexation of a badly needed bit of silverware. Maybe more significantly, again, though is that winning is as hard a habit to pick up as losing is to break. Or perhaps the greatest benefit to be derived from the success in HQ is when you look at the makeup of the victorious bunch.
It was opined here previously that Robinson could still justifiably slot into a playing role on such a stage. However, whoever instigated the idea of a development-squad type approach is to be commended. Many of those who featured in the Leinster Final win have already made noteworthy contributions to county teams and can ascend to even brighter futures.
Not just in terms of the lads who’ve been involved with the senior set up either. Even though Adam Flanagan, Paddy Kennelly, Kevin Ross et al who’ve been involved with Andy McEntee’s panel and will most likely be again. But, equally as beneficial may be the further development of lads such as Jordan Browne, Michael Flood, David Toner and, the two that really caught the eye of yours truly, James ‘Banty’ Conlon and team captain, Daire Rowe.
If there’s one drawback to the competition, it’s that at the very least different counties – if not provinces – approach the competition with a different structure. Which has thrown up a situation whereby the Kerry team which emerged from Munster after an epic battle against Cork included none other than Tomas O’Se.
Inclination would be to think that any side containing anyone of the ilk of the great man from An Gaelteacht at that level would be unassailable. However, this Meath team have been improving incrementally with every outing and hope would be that their progress – and a few other things – may keeps spirits even slightly afloat for another while yet.