'Sluddengate' has not scarred Meath -- Kenny
MEATH football captain Seamus Kenny refuses to buy into the 'bad karma' theory that has swirled around the besieged Royals all season.
Even before the bombshell of Graham Geraghty's return, the amateur psychologists have had a field day with them, suggesting their terrible league run was all down to a hangover from the way the Royals won the Leinster title last summer.
There's a theory that Meath's players were so psychologically scarred by 'Sluddengate' that it's been a cloud hanging over them since.
But Kenny's not having any of that. "If you want to use it an as excuse, you can, but I don't," he said. "Pretty much two days later it was gone, we were concentrating on the Kildare game and there was no more talk about it."
And yet try as he valiantly does to avoid talking about Meath's controversial Leinster victory thanks to that Joe Sheridan goal, the versatile Simonstown man can't avoid getting sucked into discussing the fallout that followed it.
Describing how himself and his team-mates became what he calls 'Public Enemy Number One', Kenny can't deny that it affected him.
"No one went out to 'cheat', supposedly," he said. "And when it got personal, it was tough to take. I don't want to get into it," he insisted, but then falteringly admitted: "I saw some of the stuff written about Joe, and I got some stuff myself. Like, my dad (Paul) played with Louth and managed Louth! I'd have the height of respect for everyone from Louth.
"But some of the stuff that happened afterwards, and a lot of the criticism came from within our county as well as other people, it was tough to take.
"At the start of the year all we wanted to do was win a Leinster title. We achieved it, and then for everyone to pretty much take it away from us was tough, but that was last year and had very little relevance to what has happened in the league."
A disastrous run since, including a two-point loss to next Sunday's opponents, Kildare, has brought further brickbats, many from within their own county. Lowest point? The Donegal league game, Kenny says unequivocally, of scoring just nine points and conceding 15 in front of their home crowd in Navan.
"We'd thrown a six-point lead away to Antrim the week before but we'd knuckled down hard, so to come out then and absolutely collapse, that was the biggest disappointment.
"We literally fell apart after about 20 minutes and it wasn't acceptable. That's when the (heaviest) criticism came but, look, it was just enough because we were that bad!"
One aspect that particularly stung was criticism from several Meath icons. "I'm not having a go or anything because I'd look up to all those players and obviously they've earned the right to say what they feel," Kenny said reasonably.
"But I thought we maybe could have done with getting a bit of support behind the team, instead of everyone being fairly critical of us."
Why were they so bad? He points to injury losses like that of full-back Kevin Reilly and the versatile Graham Reilly. "And with a new manager coming in there's always that added pressure to get results and unfortunately it didn't go our way, which put extra pressure on us," Kenny adds.
Yet, somehow, with a vintage piece of last-gasp Meath escapism, they avoided relegation by drawing with Tyrone on the last day out, showing the sort of grit which Kenny (below) believes will stand to them next weekend.
"You're never judged by the league," he stressed. "The championship is a completely different beast and I like to think it's an environment that we might thrive on.
"It's do-or-die stuff now."