Double role keeps Geraghty busy as Royals ease through
MEATH 0-11 LOUTH 0-5
On a day of little incident, controversy or even admirable football, it was inevitable that Graham Geraghty's return to action would elicit the biggest reaction from the home support in the 3,500 crowd in Pairc Tailteann, Navan.
Player-managers in inter-county football have been a rarity in modern times -- Tony Hanahoe, Larry Tompkins and Galway's Val Daly are about the most memorable -- and player-selectors have been just as uncommon.
But from standing with his arms folded in conversation with his fellow members of management on the sideline one minute to joining the fray the next, Geraghty's new dual role began in earnest yesterday.
Clearly, even as he heads towards his 39th birthday, there is more than optics to having him around the place in a playing capacity, and having beaten a career-threatening Achilles tendon injury sustained after his previous return last June for the Leinster championship match against Kildare, there was goodwill towards this latest comeback.
Manager Seamus McEnaney is a confessed admirer of Geraghty, having described him last year as the greatest Meath footballer he had ever seen. So it was no surprise that he was hailing him after this brief cameo.
"He's in decent shape, he's fully recovered from his injury and it's now about more training and game time. He's doing the very same training as everybody else," said McEnaney.
"We have already got more game time out of him this year than we did last year. It is regrettable that we hadn't got him for the rest of the championship last year because he's a top-class player and age doesn't come into it.
"If you are good enough, you're good enough, if you're not you're not. Whether you are 18 or 38 is irrelevant."
Geraghty was eager and enthusiastic in chasing down even the most lost of lost causes and that persistence was behind Meath's final point on 62 minutes when he kept in a ball that was heading wide and teed up Stephen Bray for his third point.
His arrival on 54 minutes came at a time when Meath were well in control anyway as they led by 0-9 to 0-3.
The wonder was that the gulf wasn't twice as wide, given the dominance they enjoyed.
Their profligacy and shot selection are matters to be addressed in the weeks ahead as the total of 11 wides and at least four balls dropped short into the hands of opposing goalkeeper Dwayne Crosby will underline.
McEnaney has said he wants Meath to win every game they play, but any plaudits for what they did here should be tempered by the poverty of what Louth did.
Without a game last week due to the defection of Kilkenny from the competition, the visitors lacked the cohesion and indeed the fitness of their opponents.
Meath's sharpness and movement of the ball out of defence at pace was a feature of their play, but the finished product just wasn't there too often and only once did they create a meaningful goal chance, when Paddy Gilsenan was blocked at close range in the first half by Crosby.
Louth have a lot of established players to come back but their manager Peter Fitzpatrick wasn't keen on excuses.
"We picked what I felt was a strong enough physical team to play against Meath and in fairness, they were probably sharper and stronger than us. If we had one or two scores earlier in the first half it might have been different," figured Fitzpatrick.
As it was, it took them 27 minutes to register their first score, through Derek Maguire, but the home side were then experiencing their own drought, with no score from Graham Reilly's second point in the seventh minute, for a 0-3 to 0-0 lead, to Bray's first effort in the 33rd minute.
Reilly had an indifferent second season at inter-county level in 2011 after quite an opening salvo the previous year, but on this evidence he looks to be resurgent, having picked off five points, almost half Meath's tally.
"We'd be hoping you will see a different Graham Reilly in 2012 than you did in 2011 because we need him," admitted McEnaney.
Reilly kept up his status as the home side's leading threat as they built on a 0-5 to 0-1 interval lead, and with Cormac McGuinness, Brian Menton, Mickey Burke and Brian Meade all showing up well, the result was never in doubt.
With Joe Sheridan, Cian Ward, Seamus Kenny and Kevin Reilly back training tomorrow night, it strengthens the Royals' hand ahead of a semi-final against DCU next weekend.
Louth got some momentum going with the arrival of Mark Brennan and more application from Derek Crilly and Paddy Keenan, while David Collier acquitted himself well at full-back against a player who had scored 1-3 the previous week against Wexford.
But on this evidence they face a really tough time in Division 2 in the months ahead.
Scorers -- Meath: G Reilly 0-5, S Bray 0-3, P Gilsenan 0-2, M Burke 0-1. Louth: P Keenan (f), R Carroll, D Maguire, A McDonnell, D Clarke (f) all 0-1 each.
Meath -- D Gallagher; G O'Brien, B Menton, M Burke; C McGuinness, S McAnarney, C O'Connor; M Ward, C Gillespie; B Meade, G Reilly, D Tobin; P Gilsenan, T Walsh, A Forde. Subs: S Bray for Forde (9),, G Geraghty for Ward (54), C Lenehan for Tobin (57), D Smyth for Reilly (62), J Carry Lynch for Meade (66).
Louth -- D Crosby; D Finnegan, D Collier, J Carr; R Finnegan, D Byrne, L Shevlin; P Keenan, B Donnelly; C Bellew, D Crilly, E O'Connor; D Maguire, A McDonnell, R Holdcroft. Subs: M Brennan for Holdcroft (h-t), G Hoey for Shevlin (h-t), D Clarke for Bellew (h-t), A Reid for O'Connor (63).
Ref -- S Carroll (Westmeath)