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Meath's Meade stays centred

PATIENCE is a virtue that has served Brian Meade well in his inter-county career thus far, but having cracked the code and broken into Meath's midfield, he's now hell-bent on displaying his full array of talents.

Until this year, the Meath centrefield has been a closed shop. Nigel Crawford and Mark Ward were automatic selections in jerseys numbered eight and nine and Meade's starts in championship fare were generally in a less familiar wing-forward spot.

Yet due to Crawford's back injury, Meade has started three of Meath's four champion-ship matches in the centre and local talk had him pushing Ward for the second midfield spot anyway. In hindsight, he couldn't have timed his run into the first team any better.

On Sunday, Meath travel to Croke Park as roaring hot favourites for a novel Leinster final pairing with Louth. For Meath supporters high on the crest of the current Royal wave, it's like they've never been away.

But Meade is acutely aware that he will be coming up against the most in-form midfield partnership in Ireland at the moment in Paddy Keenan and Brian White.

"They are two brilliant footballers," he noted. "And they like to get forward and they like to get a score. Either of them seldom gets less than three points a game. So it's a big task ahead of us."


But you sense he or his Meath team-mates don't get overly flustered by the strength of their opposition in the lead up to any match. It's one of the traits associated with football teams in the county. When they hit a streak, they're capable of beating anybody and traumatic championship exits don't seem to adversely affect them to the extent that it hampers most other counties.

Take for example the hammering Meath were given by Limerick in 2008 in the qualifiers, a match which marked the end of Colm Coyle's reign as manager.

"It rankles because it was such a disappointment," Meade says. "We never performed and we never worked the way we do and if any county team doesn't work hard you won't win and that's what happened that day.

"It was just one of those days when nothing went right. We didn't say it to each other at that stage but we said it in our own heads that that was never going to happen again and thankfully it hasn't. We have been beaten and that, but never humiliated.

"Even after 2008 when we were beaten by Limerick, we were still always high on confidence. That's one thing about the team, we would always keep our confidence."

Equally, though, Meade is not susceptible to unwarranted praise. Plenty has been made of the fact that Meath have been in two of the last three All-Ireland semi-finals, yet that stat has been quoted only as often as the one that pointed out that before this year, they had failed to win successive matches in Leinster since 2001.

"Even when in 2007 we got to the All- Ireland we were hammered by Cork, and then against Kerry we were played off the field, probably rightly so," he says when asked whether Meath had been given the credit their semi-final exploits of 2007 and 2009 deserved.

"We haven't won anything for nearly 10 years -- it's nine years since 2001 -- that's something that's been gnawing away at us for the last few years and we are getting a little bit fed up of it at this stage.

"We still have won nothing yet and we still have our eyes set on the Leinster final."

Meade admits that the defeat of Dublin was "a monkey off our backs" but is keen to play down the significance of the margin of victory or of the fact that Meath scored five goals.

In fact, he says that the Royals were "lucky" to put five past Stephen Cluxton.

However, Meade -- like a growing number of people -- has full faith in the ability of the Meath forwards to destroy anyone on their day and that Leinster semi-final was certainly one to remember.

"We always have believed that, even when things we were going bad, we always had the forwards to do it," he offers before checking himself. "But Louth have just as good a forwards. They have been racking up just as good scores as well, even better."

Still, confidence, belief and spirit are running high in Meath just now. The Dublin hoodoo is over and they've found consistency in their province. Defensively, both as individuals and a collective, they have improved beyond all recognition and the long-held theory that if all of their forwards performed on the same day, Meath would destroy some team has just been proven.

All that's left is to win a Leinster title.

"That was our aim from the beginning of the year but we are taking nothing for granted," Meade admits. "Louth are a great team.

"They played very well against Kildare and equally well against Westmeath. It mightn't have been as good football, but they showed they can grind out results. They are going into it on a high of confidence as well. It is a big game for both sides, but hopefully now we will get it together and we'll be able to get one over on them."