McEnaney: Royal slump will be the making of us
It's not a matter of if Meath will turn their abysmal league form around, it's a matter of when.
That was the bold prediction of manager Seamus McEnaney yesterday as his team edged ever close to the Division 2 trap door after a third defeat from four in their campaign to date.
It was more the performance than the result against a Michael Murphy-inspired Donegal that heaped the pressure on McEnaney and Meath, but the manager remained upbeat despite the predicament they now find themselves in.
Meath travel to Kildare on Sunday, host a resurgent Tyrone two weeks later and are then away to Derry in their final game, a fixture that was never kind to them even at the height of Sean Boylan's time in charge.
Failure to win at least one of those games would mean certain relegation to Division 3 and would pile even more pressure on the management.
McEnaney took charge of Meath last November after a controversial and at times embittered process, his appointment the outcome of Eamonn O'Brien's removal as manager in September after losing a County Board vote of confidence.
McEnaney's position as the county's first 'outside' manager and the assembly of a high-profile back-room team was never likely to allow him much of a honeymoon period.
But their situation now can be the "making" of the team, he insisted yesterday, and the "biggest test" they have faced.
"It's a great test of this management team and it is a great test of the players' character. I'd like to think that we can look back on this period and say that this made us better, this was the making of us," McEnaney said.
"There is no doubt that we are not playing as well as we can and we are certainly not playing as well as we would like to be. But I'm certain we'll turn a corner soon. It's only a matter of when that this team puts together a really big performance."
As for pressure, he is not publicly buying into the notion that he is under any after only four league games. And he is adamant that he can count 100pc on the support of the players, the majority of whom were very keen to see his appointment happen last autumn.
Meath travel to Kildare on Sunday in the knowledge that their away record over the last four seasons is dreadful, with just one win (against Wexford) and a draw (against Roscommon) from 12 games.
They are also without a number of key players who are either injured or, in the case of Peadar Byrne, suspended. Terry Skelly is also facing suspension after being sent off against Donegal.
Stephen Bray is not due back from his honeymoon until the end of the month, while Graham Reilly (groin) and Kevin Reilly (hamstring) are unlikely to see any further league action.
There is, however, better news for Cian Ward, who could be available again for the Kildare game after a specialist cleared him of any serious damage. Ward sustained what was thought to be a fractured cheekbone in a club game, but has made a quick improvement.
Squad members David Bray and Cormac McGill are also injured, but McEnaney is not offering injuries and unavailability as an excuse.
"We're not making any excuses for any performance we've had. We're in a bad place, not a place we intended to be and it's up to us together, management and players, to dig ourselves out of it.
"I can't say there is any one thing that has stopped us from performing to the best of our ability. Our training has gone well and the players have bought into it and everything we have been trying to do.
"There is a tight-knit group of players in there doing everything they can to pull us out of it," added McEnaney who defended the effort his players put into Sunday's game.
Failure to win another game in the division would mean relegation, and even one win from the three remaining would not guarantee survival.
Kildare will have Johnny Doyle and Eamonn Callaghan back for the match after they missed the weekend win over Laois.