Competing with Dublin no longer enough for medal-thirsty Royals

By Conor McKeon

AFTER two respectable, if ultimately fruitless, goes at it, surely just getting to a Leinster final and putting it up to Dublin is not enough for Meath now?

"I would think so," says Royal defender Mickey Burke. "I would think that is a fair comment, you want to start getting a few medals.

"Obviously we have one from 2010 but some people . . . I don't know what way you put it, question that a wee bit. We definitely want to start getting wins under our belt.

"You have to try match them physically," he outlines of the process by which the Royals can stay in contention longer than the 55 or so minutes they mustered in last season's provincial decider.

"You have to try win every ball, I think you have to be smart on the ball against them as well because if you kick the ball away or get turned over in possession they love counter-attacking at pace and they can score at will really."

broken leg

Burke hasn't always enjoyed clashes with the Dubs.

In 2010, he was sitting in the Hogan Stand, having suffered a broken leg earlier that summer against Laois. And last year, his joust with Paul Mannion seemed to be one of the few match-ups Mick O'Dowd got wrong.

This year, his timing couldn't be worse.

Burke suffered a bout of blisters brought on by a pair of new boots and did little enough training directly before the Kildare match and was forced to make do with a bench role, a spot where he has again been named for tomorrow by O'Dowd.

"For 50 minutes of the game last year it was nip and tuck," he recalls. "But then their bench came off and maybe we failed in that 15-minute period.

"So it is going to be about us performing to a really high level for 71, 72 minutes and finishing out the game well.

"They just pushed ahead, they brought on their bench, they have a very strong squad. We just didn't adapt as well to it as we probably could have. Maybe some inexperience, giving the ball away.

"If we give the ball away against Dublin we are going to be punished so we will have to be smart in all areas of the game.

"They just have a great team. They have got big scores from their subs but you can't spend the whole game worrying about that, you have to mark the guys that are starting as well.

"I'm not blowing them up, everyone knows they are a brilliant team at the moment."

Meath have attracted plenty of admirers this season too.


Their pace, in particular, and their nose for goals are constantly isolated for acclaim.

"I definitely think there is plenty of pace in the team," Burke points out.

"Some of the young lads you would be running around after are very quick. I know Eamon Wallace is injured but Joey came in the last day and did a great job.

"He has serious pace, so does Bryan McMahon, it seems to be all the Ratoath lads - whatever they are feeding them up there I don't know."

It is, given his standing in the squad, inconceivable that Burke won't play at least some part tomorrow.

"I think it is one of the most special games you can play in," he concludes. "It is our third Leinster final against them so we want to try start making them count at this stage.

"We have been beaten in twice, so it is a huge game for all of the lads on the panel."