The Centenary Cup was exactly what it said on the tin. A one-off, knock out football competition instigated to mark the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the GAA in 1984.
Meath won it. How many outside of the county would know that without looking it up? In these parts, though, it was huge. Not only because when history is being made in the Association, Meath never seem to be too far away.
More significantly though, it was the county’s first silverware at Senior inter county level since the National Football League success of 1975 over Dublin. Then, for context, place it against the the backdrop of the Royal County having gone out of the Championship to Wexford and Longford respectively. That said, there had been signs of improvement from the previous year (’83) when in Sean Boylan’s formative occasions taking on Dublin, the sides drew in the National League before it went on to take three games to separate them in the Championship. Whereafter Kevin Heffernan’s side went on to lift Sam Maguire.
Why the little gallop down memory lane you ask. It was prompted by what can only be described as the hysteria which erupted – in some places at least – at the prospect of Meath competing in the Tailteann Cup rather than for Sam. Such a line of thought missess the point though.
For one thing, Meath’s Championship destiny is still very much in their own hands. With the greatest of respect to the Faithful County, beating Offaly should be the very minimum of our ambitions. Furthermore, while Louth and Westmeath are both impressively improving sides, neither should hold any fears for Meath.
However, that scenario requires Meath to be in a better place than they may be in reality. Which is why people need to stop being so horrified at the prospect of being in the second tier competition.
Put it this way, if, God forbid, we were defeated by any of our three potential opponents, wouldn’t it, in fact, prove that the Tailteann Cup is the level Colm O’Rourke’s team should be playing at.
Personally, I don’t believe it’ll come to that, but, anyone who would have an issue with our lads being in the Tailteann Cup must surely admit there are issues which have left the green and gold even on the same horizon as the second tier competition. Never mind being in it.
Such an appraisal might seem particularly harsh given the achievements of two of our Minor sides in recent years, but the uncomfortable truth is that until that progress is carried to U-20 there will still be a chasm between where we are and where we want to be.
A situation magnified by the hideous decision to switch the age for the Minor grade to U-17. Even at U-18, only the most exceptional player (for reference see names such as Geraghty, Giles, Canavan, Clifford etc) could go straight from there into a county senior side.
In other words, the most obvious and productive way to guarantee a consistent throughput of players from underage teams to the highest level is via success garnered at the final underage grade. Consider, also, that the last time Meath attained glory in that particular discipline was in 2001 and it offers a sobering reality check as to why we occupy our current status in the game.
Obviously one wishes we were in a position to compete at the highest level with gusto, but the reality is we’re not. And with that being the case, would it not be a better proposition to be competing at a level where there exists a genuine hope of winning rather than getting continually riddled.
Winning is a habit, just as losing is. The difference is, one is a hard habit to get into, the other a very one to break. Therefore, as with the National League, doesn’t it only stand to reason that playing against teams of similar ilk gives them a better chance of developing a winning habit.
Speaking of which, hope and expectation would be that both our Minor and U-20 teams are still on course to bolster the progress which has been made with underage teams in recent years. Naturally, that would then feed into the development of the senior team.
After a very encouraging start against Westmeath last week, the Minors endured a difficult evening against Dublin on Wednesday. But the battling qualities displayed for periods in both halves deserves the retention of a quiet confidence that Stephen Morgan’s side can go to Darver and do the needful against Louth.
However, before tackling that obstacle, the U-20 footballers face another showdown with the two shades of blue having got their season back on track by defeating Luke Dempsey’s Westmeath on Tuesday evening.
That said, having pondered whether we would ever get the better of a Dublin side again after the Minor match, ironically, these U-20 players have what a Meath team haven’t had against the boys in blue in a long time – a winning record.
Thus, John McCarthy’s men will, by all means, respect their visitors to Pairc Tailteann next week, but there’s no need or reason for them to fear the men from the capital.
In an unashamed case of heart ruling head, Meath to sneak it, meaning the senior panel may have to wait. Not a bad problem to have.