Parnell cauldron ideal test for Royals -- Moyles
MEATH have not had a home game in Navan against Dublin in 21 years -- but hey, who's counting?
Certainly not Anthony Moyles, who looks forward with a degree of relish to Sunday's O'Byrne Cup clash with the 'old enemy' at Parnell Park.
The 33-year-old Meath stalwart, a member of Dublin club St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh, is not expected to play, but he will be there to see this latest chapter in the ancient rivalry between the counties.
Meath sources say the last time the Dubs were required to play in Navan was in 1989, but the Royals don't mind the trip up the road when the boys in Blue are the opposition.
Indeed, Moyles' view is that the intimate atmosphere of Parnell Park with a big crowd of partisan Dubs and Meath followers is the ideal testing ground for Meath's younger players.
And though the game comes so early in the year, with outdoor training for both squads curtailed by the recent Big Freeze, there's no question this is a spicy fixture.
"It's early in the year, but it's important for our team. We'll probably have a lot of new lads out, and so will the Dubs," said Moyles.
"I'm sure it's important for both managers to get the chance to test themselves against the old enemy.
"We will be looking for a good performance as a priority, but it would be great to win and progress in the competition to give lads another game. Playing Dublin is always a good test for lots of reasons.
"Parnell Park might be a little bit intimidating for the less experienced players, but if you can't handle that in January, you won't be able to handle Croke Park with 80,000 people on a championship day," he said.
Moyles is back in training after rehab on a groin operation carried out in November, and a Christmas break in the USA and the Caribbean.
"The groin was affecting me all last year. I had a lot of bother with pain, and it was just a question of trying to maintain it at a level where I could play matches. You don't notice how much it affects you until you have the operation. It was a straightforward procedure.
"There was a six-week rehab, and then I was away for Christmas and New Year, so I'm just settling back into training," said Moyles.
His intention is to focus on getting his fitness up to the level required for the National League, so the O'Byrne Cup is not a priority.
This will be the versatile Meath man's 11th campaign in the green and gold colours but the hunger for success still drives him on.
He was injured through the key part of 2008 as Meath slumped in the qualifiers, but last year the Royal stock rose again, despite suffering a first-round KO to the Dubs in Croke Park.
Ironically, Meath lasted longer in the championship than Dublin and reached the All-Ireland semi-final, only to be ousted by eventual champions Kerry.
In the qualifiers, the Royals had a comfortable win over Waterford at home, then beat Westmeath away, Roscommon at home, and Limerick in Portlaoise before eliminating Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Then came that big occasion against the Kingdom, who ran out winners by four points.
So where does that leave Meath as they look ahead into the first GAA season of the new decade?
"If you are looking at it one way, we failed because we didn't win anything. It was a year in which we didn't achieve.
"You can take false glory from being in an All-Ireland semi-final but we didn't win a Leinster title or an All-Ireland. Some people said we got an easy run through the qualifiers, but I don't agree with that.
"Westmeath down in Mullingar wasn't easy and Limerick was a big game after they beat us the previous year.
"I was very disappointed with how we performed against Dublin and Kerry. Tactically we were very obvious playing the long ball against Kerry, and you'd love the chance to do it again and do it differently this time," said Moyles.
The task, as he sees it, is simple: harder work in training and greater intensity in matches.
"You can't rest on your laurels and it has to start with the way you train. It's good that we're doing a lot more with the football in training and you hope that pays off in matches.
"In that respect I can see we're on the right road but this year the bar has to be raised again if we're to achieve anything," he said.