Sunday 26 May 2019

Meath in need of a backlash performance

The Championship

Sean Wall

Sifting through the wreckage of their Leinster Championship crash in Longford will have been a painful process for Meath.

There are many theories to the disaster and Meath's style of play and the lack of real talent at the disposal of manager Andy McEntee are just two of them. Maybe the real reason for the county's demise at such an early stage of the provincial campaign is a combination of both.

There is also plenty of debate as to whether this Saturday's round one All-Ireland qualifier against Tyrone at Pairc Tailteann (5.0) is a 'good or bad' draw for the Royals.

Dealing with the defeat in Pearse Park firstly, well, Meath could have ended winning in a canter had they put away all three goal chances created in the opening half. Even if they had taken just one of those opportunities they would probably have won.

Then there was the controversy involving the foul on Graham Reilly that wasn't given. Instead of a point for Meath the midlanders went on the attack to score after ref Hurson decided to award them the free. A two-point turnaround and the sending-off of Shane McEntee developed from that incident.

Meath set up defensively for large portions of the match, with as many as 13 players behind the ball at times. However, they conceded 16 scores and maybe that tells how successful that ploy worked.

Operating with a lone 'striker' in Donal Lenihan for periods worked a treat in the O'Byrne Cup Final against Westmeath, but this was the championship. Longford were well set up and manager Denis Connerton had done his homework on the Royals' attack. To win matches a team needs forwards and Meath simply didn't have enough of them.

The game has changed dramatically in recent years, with players asked to fill many roles during a match, but do Meath really need Graham Reilly in the full back line when he should be in the same position at the other end of the field?

What was most frustrating about this Meath display was the manner in which they had numbers behind the ball but didn't seem to be putting any pressure on the man in possession.

It allowed Longford play around until they eventually created an opening for scores. How often did Longford players put the ball over the bar under little or no pressure?

The recent Division 2 league campaign proved a disappointing one for the Royals, who only did enough to avoid relegation when they expected to be fighting it out for promotion. The division was arguably one of the weakest in a number of years, so what does that tell you about Meath? Results don't lie and the county has failed to overcome a team of substance in the past number of years.

The clash against Tyrone gives them the perfect opportunity to put right what went wrong against Longford. Being drawn against the likes of Leitrim or London would have been much easier, but it would hardly prove anything.

Home advantage is a major plus, and with a full house expected the county won't get a better chance to prove that they are much better than recent form would suggest.

Tyrone, the reigning Ulster champions and last year's All-Ireland semi-finalists, have their own problems after they relinquished their provincial crown at the hands of Monaghan, 1-18 to 1-16.

Lee Brennan, their top scorer in the league, came off against Monaghan and is expected to be out with a hamstring injury. Midfielder Colm Cavanagh is an doubt after he too was forced out against the Farney men. Mark Bradley is also a major doubt, while Peter Harte, red-carded against Monaghan, is suspended.

Are Meath capable of making the most of Tyrone's misfortune? Well, this present squad haven't done backlashes so far, but this weekend would be a good time to start. A win would make amends for the Longford debacle and give everyone within and outside the squad a tremendous boost of confidence.

Drogheda Independent