MEATH legend Colm O'Rourke has called for patience in the county as manager Mick O'Dowd looks to restore the county to former glories – but concedes his own chance of managing the Royals may have passed.
Meath are in action on Sunday in their refixed league match away to Antrim and, despite some woeful performances, which saw them only manage one point in the first half against Cavan and suffer 12-point defeat to Monaghan, the Royals still have their fate in their own hands.
A win in Belfast, followed by success against Fermanagh in Navan, would see the Royals bounce straight back to Division 2.
And O'Rourke wants O'Dowd and his team to be given "three or four years" in charge, with the county having dispensed with four managers since the departure of Sean Boylan in 2004.
"I think they are improving," O'Rourke said.
"I was at the Sligo game and I thought there were signs of significant improvement in the second half. And, as players come back, I think that Meath will be stronger.
"So, I'd be very patient with the present management team. I'd be hoping that they could be around for three or four years and given a proper chance.
"I think there's a very good group in charge of the team and I think they're definitely going about the job the right way."
O'Rourke conceded that his chance of managing the side might have gone stating "the train has maybe left the station."
His son Shane, meanwhile, continues to recover from two hip operations that have stifled his inter-county career.
"He's struggling. He's hopeful he will get back at some stage this year, but he's had a few setbacks.
"I wouldn't like to say when he'll be back. I'm just hoping some day he'll go out and he can start training without breaking down again.
"It's been a difficult process for him."
O'Dowd's troops must travel to Longford in the opening round of the Leinster championship and while the Royals shocked Kildare last summer, O'Rourke warned against expecting instant results.
"Meath have found it very difficult to cope with the idea of playing a very modern, defensive-type game, which it looks like you have to develop to win anymore.
"There's an acceptance now that we're not in the best place and that it's going to take a bit of time.
"I think that people also realise that we need to have a new look at the way that underage football is run at club and county level and in schools.
"So, I think there's more of an acceptance now of the need to change and to try and improve things.
"I don't think there's any instant solution and I certainly don't think that people should expect too much of this summer's campaign."