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Paddy O'Rourke: 'This time of year everyone is looking to bigger and better things'

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Meath goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke

Meath goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke

Meath goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke

"TWO weeks ago it was beaches, sun, coffee, and shorts," recalls Paddy O'Rourke.

"Now it's tights, and underarmour, and woolly hats."

And thus begins the pre-season of the inter-county footballer, even one of O'Rourke's stature and indeed, position, returning from Australia as a national representative, as O'Rourke was.

"This time of year," he says. "Everyone is looking to future, and bigger and better things."

December may be cold, then. But it's also the most optimistic of GAA months for those with semi factual notions of summer grandeur, as Meath surely do.

Change is visible.

Seamus Kenny, Brian Meade and Eoghan Harrrington have retired.

bloated

Donal Keogan looks like taking over the captaincy.

At 25, O'Rourke rests in the elder age bracket of the currently bloated, but youth-flecked group.

"We're beginning to get a settled look to the team but then you have three lads who have stepped back who, on any given day, like, the Meath team could step out with Eoghan and Seamus in the half-back line and Brian at midfield," he points out.

"So there's three new faces who are going to have to come in and pick up their places.

"From that point of view we'll probably be in rebuild mode again. But then you'd be hoping that Conor Gillespie is back fit again and Eamonn Wallace is back fit up front.

"I think the main faces will fill the same positions as last year but we'll be filling in with young lads who will get plenty of time in the O'Byrne Cup and plenty of time in the league to see if they're up to the standard."

For the record, O'Rourke fully enjoyed the International Rules experience in all but the initial mauling his team took in the first two quarters by the Aussies.

"I just couldn't really grasp how we could prepared so well," he says.

"Like, the run-out the week before you had all the lads firing and kicks were going to hand, marks were being made, scores were being taken but when we seemed to get into the final third of the pitch, nothing seeded to click, nothing seemed to stick.

"And even the shots that we took they seemed to be rushed, seemed to be nervous, it didn't look like the same lads we had been training with for the two weeks previous."

And given the strength of Ireland's comeback, O'Rourke believes the continuation of the series is viable.

"As far as I'm concerned on the Ireland side of things we will always represent with the best players that are available and if it is to succeed there's going to have to be an AFL buy-in that there best players are going to have to come out," he suggests.

farce

"Last year was a farce, an embarrassment to the AFL, it was an embarrassment to the players from Ireland on the pitch that night in Croke Park, and if it is to succeed next year the same system has to be in place from our Aussie counterparts.

"They are going to have to make their best players available.

"When you see the way they played and how comfortable they looked with the ball, and how comfortable they looked after that second quarter, there is a future for the series.

"And hopefully it will go back to the good days of the late 90s, early 2000s, and every game came down to the kick of a ball and it was the best players from both sides," concludes O'Rourke.


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