Concession of soft goals hurt Meath badly, says O'Donoghue
Meath junior boss Conor O'Donoghue was the first to admit that Kerry were the superior outfit and full deserved their All-Ireland junior crown at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise last Saturday.
However, O'Donoghue opined that his sides failure to put away their chances, plus the concession of soft goals was the real difference between the teams.
'I wouldn't doubt that Kerry were the better team, but we were very competitive for a large part of it,' the Dunboyne man said afterwards. 'The difference were the goals and if you take those out, and that is a very simple and maybe stupid thing to say, but that was the difference between the two teams on the day.
'It was a disappointing result as we came here to win the game and we felt we were capable of winning. It was a funny sort of a game. They blitzed us I suppose in the first few minutes, but then we got to grips with it very very quickly. They seemed to get a bit frustrated, and our game kicked in a little bit better and it was nip and tuck and then we conceded I suppose what was a disappointing goal.
'We got our pocket picked coming out of our full back line and then we got back into it again and we had a goal chance and then a second goal chance. The lads were doing their very best, but we probably needed to score one of those.'
Despite being four points in arrears at half-time, O'Donoghue said he was reasonably happy with his side's position at the break.
'We came in at half-time with a performance we were reasonably happy with, if the score was not reflective where we were at. Then in the second half they started very strong again and we had a lot of chances that on another day we might have finished and then we conceded another goal that you wouldn't like to concede.
'We weren't opened up or anything like that, the high ball in and it was in the back of the net all of a sudden. That is the difference when you are playing a team of this quality.'
Though he was loathed to admit it, O'Donoghue might have preferred if Meath's goal chances had fallen to more proven finishers.
'Certainly you have marksmen out on the pitch that you would fancy to score all day and all night,' O'Donoghue continued.
'We had another one there at the end and certainly I would consider Stephen (Coogan) to be a marksman and they blocked it down.
'You create chances and you can't say who gets on the end of them, guys that had the chances were doing their best, they were certainly doing the right thing. They didn't go into the back of the net and that is the way it goes.'
The manager also explained the reason for the non-inclusion of James Conlon from the start. Conlon was only introduced after 19 minutes having earlier being named in the starting line-up.
The Colmcille's club man was one of the few Meath forwards who proved capable of troubling the Kerry defence and he ended with a personal tally of four points.
'James was away for a period and then he was on another family holiday that he couldn't put off and he arrived back on Thursday, so he had been missing on and off through no fault of his own. He was absolutely committed to the cause, but we felt he might find it easier to come into a game and he did. The minute he came on he made a big difference, to be fair.'
According to O'Donoghue, despite the defeat there was plenty of positives to take from the campaign.
'It was very enjoyable to work with a really good bunch and I'm really hopeful that many of them will go on to work with Andy (McEntee) with the seniors over the next couple of years, I'm certain that they will.
'We have learned a great deal, I have learned a great deal, but you are going up against a giant of the game in Kerry and I don't think we looked out of place and again on another day things might have been slightly different.
'I suppose what Meath can learn, it is that they are not very far away. If we keep doing the right thing then good things will come.
'The highlight has to be winning the Leinster championship. Its been seven years since Meath won a championship at provincial level, so it was an important bridge to cross for the county to win a trophy. But again we wanted another one and thought that we could win it and would win it.'