I only wish our manager’s optimism in his post match comments after Meath had somehow contrived to throw away a hard earned front foot position against Louth in Round 4 of the Allianz NFL at Pairc Tailteann could be shared.
When asked by Brendan Cummins about looking down the table rather than up, Colm O’Rourke remarked “We have three games remaining and are ruling nothing in or out at this stage”. In theory he is of course correct, but confidence could hardly be too high after the last couple of disappointments.
It had all began so brightly here, with Shane Walsh producing what is becoming his signature move, taking possession from Cillian O’Sullivan before running the loop and driving between the uprights at the Hospital end. Further scores followed from Jordan Morris (two) and Ronan Jones.
Then, however, came the first swing of the pendulum when Meath’s Harry O’Higgins appeared to be ridiculously sent off just after the first quarter had elapsed as media darling Joe McQuillan made himself the centre of attention once again, dismissing the Drumbarragh Emmets corner back.
Though funnily enough, the ‘injured’ party was up and running around like a weanling bull the minute the corner back departed. Wonders never cease. Not surprisingly, those indoctrinated in the Mickey Harte ideology did what they had to dominate the remainder of the first half.
By dint of which they led by 0-06 to 0-05 half way through. To their credit, Meath did reorganise themselves at the break and manufactured scores through Jack Flynn, Walsh and Mat Costello which culminated in the sides being level at 0-09 apiece.
Thereafter, Meath actually enjoyed their best spell as, yet again, Donal Keogan led by example, driving forward and drilling low to the Louth net. When Flynn and Costello pointed again quickly after the goal, leaving Meath five clear with 18 minutes to go, that appeared to be the issue settled.
Maybe, just maybe, the locals began to think the same, because there had to be some degree of malfunction to allow the visitors hit 1-6 with only one point in riposte. Very evidently, Meath began panicking in possession, completely becoming zoned in on keeping hold thereof. Instead of sticking to what had been cutting the Louth defence to ribbons in the third quarter.
However, Louth deserve great credit as, with the barrel of laughs they have for a manager, they were always going to come with a very rigid gameplan and stick to it finitely. Today, that meant their main talisman Sam Mulroy roaming way out the field.
This, in turn, allowed strike runners like Daire McConnon and, in particular, Ciaran Downey, pilfer the scores Louth needed to gradually, but inevitably, haul themelves back into contention.
Speaking of burglary though, when the men from the Wee County did manage to dislodge the ball after a long spell of ponderous dithering by Meath, substitute Craig Lennon took off like the Road Runner and left our defence scrambling like a pack of Wile E. Koyotes. Producing the predictable outcome.
Now, maybe it’s the pain killers and other medications after being ill and in pain for the last month talking, but I would love to know how ar mBainisteoir could accentuate the postive after such a demoralising derailment.
Still, nobody knows necessity to extract morsels of positivity out of a situation better than this corner. Thus, one would have to be at least encouraged by the spirit and willingness to work displayed by the lads.
Kicking 1-7 after the break, down a man, shows many of the attributes required to be impactful at this level. Crumbs of comfort, but crumbs are better than starvation.
SCORERS: D. Keogan (1-0), S. Walsh, J. Morris (0-3 each), J. Flynn, M. Costello (0-2 each), R. Jones, J. Scully (0-1 each).
MEATH: H. Hogan; A. O’Neill, M. Flood, H. O’Higgins; J. O’Connor, D. Keogan, S. McEntee; R. Jones, J. Flynn; C. O’Sullivan, J. Scully, D. Campion; J. Morris, M. Costello, S. Walsh. Subs; J. O’Hare for McEntee, T. O’Reilly for O’Sullivan, E. Harkin for Campion, D. McGowan for Scully, D. Moriarity for Jones.
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)