Spuds are only as good as what you serve with them



When Sean Boylan took over as Meath manager in October of 1982, the Royal County hadn’t beaten Dublin in quite some time. Whether it was quite as long as is the current chasm I am unsure, but, in an effort to re-invigorate his then charges in readiness for the battle with the two shades of blue, he told them “They (Dublin) don’t eat any better spuds than we do”,

In other words, they can only field fifteen players too and need the same set of ingredients to win – the most scores. The agricultural side of that nugget hasn’t changed – we are truly blessed to have some of the biggest and best potato producers in the country – Pat Reynolds and the Finnegan and Meade families to call our own.

Spuds, though, are only as good as what you serve with them. And unfortunately when Meath went looking today, the pickings at the table were sparse. For as long as this writer has observed Meath-Dublin matches, two factors have always been crucial to our lads having the best chance of thwarting the city folk.

To stay upsides them for the first quarter and, as a former combatant in the clashes once said to me, “You have to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Throw something at them they won’t be expecting”.

Whether that be a back converted to a forward, a player they haven’t come across before – for reference see one J. McDermott circa 1991 – or somebody successfully negating one of their key men. For example, back in time when David Beggy and PJ Gillic’s primary role was to negate the influence of Keith Barr and Eamon Heery going up the field.

In the latest joust, however, whatever about part two of that wishlist, the first item thereof was a disappointing non runner. Meath had plenty of the ball early on, but their only return thereon was a Diarmuid Moriarity free.

In contrast, each of the Dubs first five shots split the Meath posts. Then, however, a rabbit appeared, in the guise of a Mat Costello goal after good approach play by Moriarity.

Matie-goal: Costello again hit the net

Alas, the old dictum about breeding like rabbits was wide of the mark on this occasion because, rather than the home side building on what should have been a shot in the arm for them, it was their visitors who charged up field and rattled Harry Hogan’s net courtesy of Killian O’Gara.

That left the scoreboard reading 1-02 to 1-12 at the break and yes, the match over as a contest, but progress means different things from different perspectives and, in Meath’s case, that meant having a cut at their opponents and narrowing the gap – literal and in every other sense – from us to them.

For as long as can be recalled and whatever reason, it has always been a Meath tradition to play against the wind if winning the toss. So it was today, but, that didn’t cause too much worry as logic said wind advantage would allow them to play the long, direct football which the O’Rourke template seems to espouse.

Ironically, on this occasion, when the opportunity and requirement to put the ball in long presented itself, our lads became inhibiited by something. Nerves? Fear? Lack of confidence?

Whatever the reason, just like in the Louth game, instinct was to retreat and try intricate, energy-sapping pedantic moves up the pitch. Yes, they did register somep fine scores via Jack Flynn, Costello, Cathal Hickey, Aaron Lynch (2) and Donal Lenihan, but pouring forward created a fairly obvious problem in that it gave Dublin a large chunk of Pairc Tailteann to gallop into on the counter which they did with sobering regularity and devastating effect.

Cormac Costello tormented the Meath defence

Never more so than when Cormac Costello got on the end of a lightening quick surge to fill the onion bag at the hospital end with virtually the last kick of the game.

Now, one is tempted to say the late ‘major’ was harsh on those in green and gold but, whether it’s palatable or not, it was a fair reflection of the gulf which still remains between us and them.

That said, for my mental health as much as anything else, there’s a need to hone in on whatever morsels of positivity can be gleaned from a given situation.

There weren’t many yesterday, but there were a few. I’m reminded of the episode of Dad’s Army when Captain Mainwaring is trying to rally the troops and he’s talking about there being light at the end of the tunnel.

“Very small light, very dark tunnel, but it’s there”. If you were to be coldly analytical, it could be said somebody forgot to change the bulb, but there’ll be enough naysayers and doom mongers slinging that dross.

The return of Padraic Harnan being one, the outstanding display of Ronan Jones being another and the contributions of Daithi McGowan, Aaron Lynch and Donal Lenihan off the bench also being worthy of mention.

There was a time Meath teams were at their most dangerous when written off and down throdden, here lies an opportunity to harness the spirit of old and wilt the Lilies!

MEATH – H. Hogan; A. O’Neill, M. Flood, H. O’Higgins; D. Keogan, P. Harnan, C. Hickey (0-1); R. Jones, J. Flynn (0-3); J. O’Connor, J. Scully, S. Crosby; J. Morris, M. Costello (1-2), D. Moriarity (0-2). SUBS – A. Lynch (0-2) for Morris, D. McGowan for O’Connor, C. O’Sullivan for Crosby, D. Lenihan (0-1) for Scully, E. Harkin for Keogan.

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).

Leave a Reply