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Moyles: Meath are in malaise

MEATH football is not in a happy place right now. The flagship senior footballers have seen the fleeting promise of February replaced by the ebbing tides of March and the looming fear of April relegation.

Last night's Leinster U21 final took place in Navan for a variety of reasons, one obvious factor being Meath's non-involvement for the 11th consecutive season. And then, of course, we had Seán Boylan stepping down as Meath's director of football, a role he assumed amid much county board fanfare only last September.

Anthony Moyles surveys the scene and concludes that the problems extend far beyond the county senior set-up that he departed last autumn.

There is, he suggests, a "general malaise in Meath".

Moyles, now 35, believes the seniors have become too consumed by tactics this year but he hasn't lost all hope yet.

Moreover, he believes Seamus McEnaney's struggling troops will emerge from their current form trough and defeat Louth this Sunday, preserving their Allianz League Division Two status. "Louth will view Meath as being vulnerable, and quite often the worst time to play Meath is when the opposition think they are vulnerable," he surmises.

But he's worried about the future direction of football in the county and cannot hide his frustration that Boylan, a man who has given over half his life to Meath GAA, felt compelled to walk way.

The Meath managerial legend admitted this week that his director of football appointment "hadn't worked out", diplomatically stating: "For whatever reasons, we just didn't get sitting down and talking about matters relevant to it."

Moyles says the importance of Boylan's departure, as a statement about Meath football, "cannot be glossed over". He expands: "I don't know the ins and outs of it, because I'm a bit removed, but to read over the last few days that was his decision is shocking, to say the least.

"Here is a guy with an unbelievable wealth of experience, and you would think that most people with confidence in themselves wouldn't mind drawing a few things off this man."

The blame, inevitably, will fall mostly in the lap of the county board executive.

"A large proportion of Meath supporters would be very disillusioned with the county board and the direction they are going in, between different appointments, between various different things," Moyles declares.

"Everyone understands the county board is not a role where people get paid. Of course it's voluntary, and they do an awful lot of good work. But at the same time, when you have someone with the experience and knowledge of Seán Boylan not being listened to ... that doesn't reflect well on the county board, not at all."

It was Boylan, of course, who gave the player his first inter-county break. He made his league debut at the back end of 1999 but was away the previous summer when the Royals embarked on their last All-Ireland-winning adventure.

"I had just finished college and was planning to go to the States, and Seán asked me in," he recalls. "But I had already organised flights and accommodation in the States. Unfortunately for me, I went to America."

Thus, he retired last autumn without the silver lining of an All-Ireland medal. Why did he go? "I didn't really enjoy last year, to be honest. Not because I wasn't playing -- I always enjoyed the training and camaraderie," he stresses.

However, he felt management could have made better use of his experience -- off the field if not on it.

"I was there 13 years with Meath," he points out. "Some (long-serving players) would be utilised a bit more, even for their experience, just talking to them, just bouncing things off, and I was not used really in that regard.

"I asked myself would it be different this year and I said no, I cannot see it being any different ... so I said that would be the time for me to say goodbye."

In his absence, Meath won their first two NFL outings but then lost an early March classic to their latter-day Kildare nemesis - the first of four consecutive defeats, each performance worse than the previous one.


Moyles isn't convinced by suggestions that Meath's season would have taken a very different path if only Shane McAnarney had pointed (instead of striking an upright) shortly before Ollie Lyons' injury-time winner.

Even though "sick from losing it", he thought Meath would have derived confidence from the Kildare game and "kicked on" instead of ending up in a "dogfight".

So what's the solution? "We have always been at our best when we just go out and play, and not get too much caught up in tactics," Moyles suggests.

"In the last couple of games, I think there has been too much tactical thinking going on as regards trying to play a system ... people are trying to replicate the Dublin or Donegal system, this system or that system.

"And really we should do what suits us and play to our strengths. That's moving the ball at pace and kicking the ball; you would always have one or two target men who would cause a bit of mayhem around the goal."