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Meath are in a better place than last year despite current league position: Keogan

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Meath’s Donal Keogan at yesterday’s Allianz Ireland launch. Photo: Sportsfile

Meath’s Donal Keogan at yesterday’s Allianz Ireland launch. Photo: Sportsfile

Andy McEntee. Photo: Sportsfile

Andy McEntee. Photo: Sportsfile

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Meath’s Donal Keogan at yesterday’s Allianz Ireland launch. Photo: Sportsfile

Just as there is an appreciation in Meath that they have been notably more competitive in their last two Division 1 games than their opening pair of encounters, there is also the awareness that they are beginning to run out of road.

Four games so far have yielded nothing bankable in the cold, hard currency of league points.

Prior to the beginning of the year, they identified winning three times as their target; the magic number required to preserve a spot in football's top-flight.

Over the last three weekends of the league, Meath have to play the teams currently sitting first, second and third in the table.

According to their outstanding player of the past five seasons, Donal Keogan, they never assumed their journey here would follow a straight path.

"Andy (McEntee) gave the analogy before: if you look at the Facebook share prices …nothing goes up in a straight line," he explained.

"There's ups and dips and spikes and troughs. The general consensus is that we're going in the right direction."

There have been mitigating factors in Meath's season to date.

Four of their back seven from last year's championship team; goalkeeper, centre-back and both corner-backs, have missed this vital early part of the year with injuries.

Pattern

So too has freetaker and forward totem, Mickey Newman, plus Meath's outstanding attacking prospect, Shane Walsh.

As Keogan points out: "It's a pity that we haven't had the opportunity to go 'hell for leather' with everybody that you'd like."

So it's tough at the top, but Meath knew that already.

Last year's Super 8s was an instructive exercise.

In Ballybofey against Donegal in round 1, Meath led in the 54th minute. They lost that afternoon by nine points.

A week later in Croke Park, they were level with Mayo with less than 20 minutes to play and again, lost by nine.

Two weeks later, there was just a point in it at half-time when they played Kerry in Navan in their concluding game of the 2019 championship.

The Kingdom won that day by eight points.

"The top eight - they're just way more efficient with the ball," Keogan observes.

"In Division 2, you could kind of afford to be a bit wayward in the final third.

"If you got turned over, some of the teams …. pace is one thing, but they wouldn't break as quick or they wouldn't punish you as quickly.

"But in Division 1, if you get turned over in the final third or a shot drops short, it's instantly an opportunity for the other team to counter.

"I think that's where we were getting caught a lot. So we're working on that. We're working on our efficiency in front of goal.Our shot-taking. Making sure you're taking the right shot or the right person is taking it.

Exposure

"Making sure every shot you take counts. That was one of the major learnings we got from the Super 8s. You have to mind the ball.

"When you have it, you have to protect it."

Regardless of what happens between now and March 22 (they face Monaghan away) when Meath's first season in Division 1 since 2006 ends, Keogan is adamant they will be a stronger force this summer for their experiences.

"We have now played Donegal twice last year, three Super 8s games and four Division 1 teams - Tyrone, Kerry, Mayo, Donegal, they are up there in the top six teams in Ireland I'd say.

"So the exposure we have gotten has to be an advantage for us going forward.

"I definitely think we are in a better place going forward," he adds.

"And the consensus in the whole Meath set-up would be we are in a better place than we were last year."


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