Royals' Gillespie ruled out for season with cruciate injury
Meath have been dealt a hammer blow with the news that midfielder Conor Gillespie has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
The Summerhill man picked up the injury in training on Sunday as the Royals wrapped up preparations for their Leinster championship opener against Carlow next weekend.
Gillespie missed the league through ankle and shoulder injuries but had been in contention for a starting spot for Sunday's trip to Dr Cullen Park.
Shane O'Rourke and Andrew Tormey formed a midfield partnership for much of this year, while Brian Meade – who also suffered a serious knee injury last year – is also back in the mix after completing his rehab. Gillespie's injury brings to four the number of players manager Mick O'Dowd must do without for the rest of the season.
Ratoath speedster Eamonn Wallace, Davy Dalton and promising youngster Cillian O'Sullivan won't play for the Royals this year, while Bryan Menton (thumb) and Eoghan Harrington (jaw) will also miss this weekend's trip.
And despite those absences, O'Dowd feels they are ready to build on the promise of last season.
"In year one, there was a lot of change going on. There's 12, 15 people involved in a back-room team, including myself, so they were all new or more or less and then there was probably a 50pc turnaround in the squad itself.
"So there was a lot of change and like anywhere there's changes going on, a change of culture and that, it takes time to bed in. But there were good successes, relative successes last year along the way in terms of performances against Division 1 teams so that kind of renewed enthusiasm in the whole county I think and fed into the preparations for this year.
"I think we had a really strong league, consolidated ourselves in Division 2 in third place and narrowly missed out on Division 1. So I think there's good momentum there. There's always plenty of work to be done, everyone is raising the bar all round so you just have to keep up to speed."
Mickey Newman, Kevin Reilly and Stephen Bray all sat out club championship action recently but they are expected to be fit for the weekend.