Saturday 25 March 2017

McEnaney enters do-or-die territory

Eamonn Sweeney

In its opening weeks the football championship generally has the air of a phoney war, the back door meaning there's no such thing as a 'must-win' game until the quarter-final stages.

Seamus McEnaney has changed all that. The shenanigans in Meath mean today's clash with Kildare is not only 'must win' for the Royals but 'must watch' for any sports fan who appreciates drama. It's that most intriguing of things, a grudge match. Except in this case the grudge isn't between the two teams but between the manager of one team and a large proportion of his side's followers.

That's if you're to go by the unguarded way senior Meath figures spoke out against McEnaney last week. There was no pussyfooting, no sitting on the fence, none of the typical GAA caution. Bernard Flynn called McEnaney's decision to recall Graham Geraghty, 'ludicrous', Colm O'Rourke in these pages blasted it as a wrong call, Dudley Farrell used the word 'crazy'. That both O'Rourke and Farrell have sons on the Meath panel shows the depth of ire McEnaney has provoked. And of course nothing spoke more eloquently than the resignation of selectors Liam Harnan and Barry Callaghan which brought the whole spat into the public eye.

Today's clash promises to be fascinating. If Meath, for example, fall behind early on how will their fans react? Will they turn on the manager? On the other hand, if Meath manage to win, McEnaney will be able to give the 'a lot of ye boys out there wrote us off' speech to beat them all. His recall of Geraghty might even be described as a managerial masterstroke which took the pressure off the players and fostered a helpful siege mentality in the run-up to the game. Winning justifies everything.

If Meath lose there's going to be some fun at the county board meeting on June 13. Meanwhile, a large wicker man is being erected on the Hill of Slane. And the local shops have been doing a roaring trade in matches and petrol.

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