Tuesday 20 March 2018

Optimism around Meath is Down to steely defence

Mick O'Dowd, Meath manager.
Mick O'Dowd, Meath manager.

Sean Wall

MEATH boss Mick O'Dowd watched his charges inflict an almost fatal blow to Down's promotion hopes and at the same time briefly put themselves in with a slim prospect of one of the two top places.

However, with both Monaghan and Donegal winning on Sunday, those promotion hopes evaporated and ended Meath's outside chance.

There was renewed optimism among the Royal fraternity following this performance, though, as Meath stopped the rot against the Mourne men, the first league win over the Ulster County in 20 years.

O'Dowd (pictured below) said: 'I think there is some over-reaction to league defeats. Teams should learn from defeats rather than running scared.

'We have learned from the defeats to Monaghan and Armagh with the much-improved performance in Ballybofey and wins over Laois and now Down.

'In the last few games we have been putting more emphasis on defensive play. In the game against Donegal we conceded 1-12, 1-10 against Laois and 1-11 tonight, that's pleasing.

'After losing to Armagh, we set a target to finish with 10 points. Now, with just one round left, the best we can achieve is nine. That may not be enough to gain promotion, but it could get us third place and such a placing would represent progress.

'We may be left to regret the home defeat to Armagh. In that game we let a five-point lead slip.'

Down were seeking to maintain their promotion push following their recent win over Donegal and keep the pressure on Ulster rivals Monaghan as well as Jim McGuinness' side.

O'Dowd continued: 'I thought we put in a very composed performance. The two points before half-time were very important scores to get.

'Then in the second half we got a goal and they replied with one almost immediately. We responded well to their goal, there was a nice composure to the way we played, our tackling was very good and that was another pleasing aspect to the performance.

'The outcome was in the balance for most of the game and it was only in the last 10 minutes that we pushed on and got the match-winning scores.

'Ten players were not available because of injuries, but the way other lads have come in and done well is pleasing. While some lads may play better than others in games, it is a team effort, a squad effort.'

O'Dowd said that the three players who went off injured, Michael Newman and Eoghan Harrington (both hamstring) and Sean Curran (shoulder), will not figure against Louth next Sunday.

Meanwhile, Down boss James McCartan bemoaned the fact that his charges were unable to kick on when they had the momentum and a three-point lead early in the second half.

'They got 14 men behind the ball at times and hit us on the break,' he continued. 'We should be used to playing against teams like that - we're playing in Ulster long enough - but we didn't penetrate them and we didn't move their defence around as quickly as we did the last day out – we just lacked a bit of energy.'

Drogheda Independent