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Banty to start off with a win

Students won't scupper McEnaney's coronation at NavanO'BYRNE CUP SF 1st RD


(Navan, Tomorrow 2.0)

AS GAA closed-seasons go, the one just elapsed was among the most subdued and least controversial of recent vintage.

No Cork strike (for the second winter running -- what's happening?), no civil war on Shannonside, not even a decent spat between the GPA and the One-Believers to keep us Gaels vaguely amused in the absence of any matches during the recent Ice Age.

The only county that kept the flag of controversy flying -- in any meaningful, concerted way -- was Meath.

Doubtless, this had nothing to do with a desire to keep their friends among the press pack in meaningful employment. However, the grassroots uprising against manager Eamonn O'Brien, followed by the protracted soul-searching that eventually led to the appointment of Seamus McEnaney, was certainly the biggest GAA story of last autumn/winter.

And the biggest GAA controversy of summer 2010? Oh, don't even go there, Mister Sludden!


Clearly, the decision to go outside the county was a difficult choice for a traditional heavyweight county like Meath. Even now, the furore over McEnaney's ratification hasn't fully died away -- evidenced by the recent comments of Donal Curtis, a selector under O'Brien.

"I was very surprised and disappointed, and it's no reflection on Seamus McEnaney but I feel there were enough good men in the county to do it and do it very well," the former All-Ireland winner told the Drogheda Independent.

It's fair enough to surmise that 'Banty' and his high-profile backroom team probably won't be afforded the same honeymoon period as some rival managers -- but equally he will relish the chance to put his methods into on-field practice. Starting this weekend.

McEnaney's first Meath team had yet to be announced at time of going to press, but all the indications are that it will be a very experimental line-up.


Stephen Bray is currently away on honeymoon while his brother, David, who missed all of last summer following cruciate ligament surgery, has yet to resume full training after suffering a hamstring setback November.

But Mickey Burke has returned from a broken leg, while former first choice 'keeper Paddy O'Rourke has been touted for an outfield audition after his wing-forward heroics helped Skryne to last year's county title.

"He played outfield for his club and we will give him his opportunity in a few trial games and see how he performs," McEnaney was quoted as saying this week. "I am no stranger to playing goalkeepers outfield or outfield players in goal. We want to give everyone the best opportunity we can."

Meath are liable to get a severe test against a UCD team which beat Dublin's U21s in a Wednesday night challenge. The visitors are likely to include Laois duo Donie Kingston and John O'Loughlin, plus Dublin's Mick Fitzsimons, but may be without their Kilmacud contingent.

ODDS: Meath 1/3, Draw 8/1, UCD 13/5