Flame burns bright as ever for veteran Geraghty
THIS Saturday night, Graham Geraghty is likely to make a first league appearance for Meath in four years and the start of another chapter of a stellar career will be written.
When the Meath boss rang last summer asking for a meeting, Geraghty suspected McEnaney, a publican, might offer the 1999 All-Ireland-winning captain a way back into the pub trade that he was familiar with.
Instead, 'Banty' offered another chance to finish a career that had ended in unfitting fashion. Geraghty bade farewell in the aftermath of the qualifier humiliation in Limerick in 2008.
Meath had trailed by 20 points at one stage in that game and, announcing his retirement afterwards, Geraghty commented: "It would have been good to out on a high but if I was waiting for a high at this stage I might have to go on for another 10 years."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, his latest comeback was dogged in controversy, from the decision of Barry Callaghan and Liam Harnan to step down as selectors to his disallowed 'goal' against Kildare in the Leinster championship.
An achilles injury he picked up shortly afterwards looked to have finally put paid to his career but an operation, a winter of rehab and the chance to be a player-selector gave him enough motivation to come back to resume a Meath career that began in late 1991.
"I thought the achilles was going to be the end of me," he said. "And I was very disappointed, which meant I still wanted to play. I had the operation and the surgeon was very happy and I was back running on it by November."
Geraghty, who turns 39 in May, has taken a full part in training since. The long runs are hard on the system and the "short, sharp stuff," under the guidance of Derval O'Rourke's coach Sean Cahill, is new to him but has a pointed purpose. Meath have lacked a little pace to complement the considerable power and poise at their disposal in recent seasons and as McEnaney commented recently: "Pace kills -- particularly if you haven't got it."
"The stuff with Sean is different to anything I've done before anyway," said Geraghty. "It's very specific. He's trying to get lads to run more freely and hopefully faster."
Geraghty missed the defeat to DCU in the O'Byrne Cup semi-final with a slight back twinge but, along with Joe Sheridan, is likely to feature at some stage on Saturday. Captain Seamus Kenny is in line for a start against Monaghan, who have added former Meath boss Eamonn O'Brien to their backroom team, while Cian Ward is also available after avoiding an operation to have his appendix removed.
"I hope to play myself but we have a few fellas who need game time too so a lot will depend on how the game pans out," said Geraghty. "It's strange being in a room picking a Meath team. You'd be thinking about who needs to play and who deserves a chance but you also want to be there yourself but you'd nearly be afraid to put yourself forward."
That defeat to the students denied Meath an early-season showdown with Kildare, who beat the Royals twice in the championship last season.
They will face off in the league in Navan on March 3 and could meet again in the Leinster semi-final that is fixed for July 1.
But after a 2011 league campaign that only saw Meath preserve their Division 2 status on a favourable head-to-head record with Sligo, Geraghty insists they will be better in this campaign.
"If you look at Dublin last year, they got to the league final and won the All-Ireland. Cork won the league and the All-Ireland the year before and teams are taking the league very seriously. We'll be looking to carry form through the league and into the championship and we'll take it from there.
"Looking at the last few years we're big outsiders in the championship and that's fair enough. We've a Leinster championship coming up, kicking off with Wicklow, and we'll take that first.
"We have good players. Last year against Kildare we felt we were a little unlucky to lose and Kildare could say they were unlucky against Dublin so it's going to be tight and we certainly wouldn't fear them."