Royals 'miles off' Dublin on Wicklow display, says Graham Reilly
Even in Navan, the talk was of Dublin.
After scraping by Wicklow at home, Graham Reilly conceded his Meath team are "miles off" Leinster's market leaders.
Reilly hit 1-4 in strong personal performance but Meath struggled to shake a Wicklow side who produced their best performance of the season by some way.
And he warned the Royals will be underdogs going into their Leinster semi-final clash with Westmeath on Sunday week on the basis of the form shown by both sides in the championship.
"I think Westmeath will go in as favourites," Reilly offered.
"They're after beating Wexford fairly comprehensively so they're moving well. They beat Louth well as well. It's going to be a big challenge for us going in against Westmeath.
"I know we beat them well in the O'Byrne Cup and the league here. But Westmeath are going to be mad to beat Meath in Croke Park, no better day for them.
"We've lads to come back, it's going to be hugely competitive for places and that can only make us better."
Reilly was one of just a handful of senior players who lined out for Meath on Sunday. Mick O'Dowd gave six players their championship debuts, while another - Adam Flanagan - had started just once going into Sunday's clash.
And even allowing for the cohort of established players due to come back for the next game, Reilly believes their current form would see them suffer another hammering at the hands of the Dubs.
Dublin have beaten the Royals in the last three Leinster finals and they haven't beaten the old enemy since 2010.
"(On the Wicklow game) we're miles off them," he admitted.
"Our passing wasn't crisp enough, our work rate wasn't good enough. I thought our tempo was okay, we were trying to do the right things but we've got to get ball to hand.
"Defensively, we've got to set up better. They were running through the middle of us.
"If Dublin run through the middle of us - if we do manage to get to a Leinster final - we're going to get kicked out of Croke Park again.
"I suppose Kevin (Reilly) and Conor (Gillespie), Mickey Newman, Bryan Menton probably and a few other lads will be back for Westmeath. They'll push the team on, of course they will.
"There was a good bit of inexperience out there today, six lads starting. Most lads were in their first league. I think 10 or 11 it was their first year of league so a lot of inexperience.
"But I'm not taking anything away from Wicklow. Wicklow put it up to us and they were good.
"They kicked some very good scores. Fair dues to them, we needed that kick."
And Reilly agreed that playing in front of a home crowd in the Leinster Championship brought its own pressure for Meath's young side.
Meath conceded 3-12 at home and coughed up two penalties as their young back line - which included four debutants - struggled to keep tabs on Wicklow's attack.
"I suppose like anything, first championship game, the tempo is something that you haven't played all year, the first 10 or 15 minutes you're really panting.
"There was a huge crowd there and all of them were expecting us to win comfortably which brought a bit of pressure on us as a very young team.
"I think going forward that we have to be more clinical up front, we've got to sort ourselves out at the back big time.
"We can't concede that much against Westmeath or Westmeath will kick more.
"They beat Louth well and they beat Wexford well. I'm not sure how tough the games have been on Westmeath.
"We've got two weeks to prepare for them. Starting Tuesday night our intensity has got to go through the roof. And it will. Mick (O'Dowd) will make sure it does. A lot of the senior players like myself need to step up."