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Reilly agrees with O'Dowd's Royal future vision


Meath manager Mick O'Dowd. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

Meath manager Mick O'Dowd. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

Meath manager Mick O'Dowd. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

THE numbers seemed ambitious, aspirational even. Yet Graham Reilly's revelation after last Sunday's 12-point win over Wicklow was, probably, just further evidence of Mick O'Dowd's progress in introducing Meath, perhaps belatedly, to the realities of football at this level nowadays.

"If you look at teams like Dublin and Kerry, their tackle counts are always 80, 90, 100 tackles a game and that's what we have to reach if we want to progress," said Reilly, inarguably Meath's most dynamic player over the past three seasons.

One hundred tackles in a 70-something minute game?

Not necessarily excessive, says Séamus Kenny.

"You set yourself targets in a lot of things, whether it's breaking ball, dispossessions, tackles," explains Kenny, not unfamiliar with hard graft himself. "Obviously, when you don't have the ball you're not in control of the game and, if you can turn a player over cleanly, it's a massive advantage psychologically.

"And now with the black card, you have to be skillful in how you do it. You can't just physically bully a player."

The perception of Meath, rightly or wrongly, over the past, fairly barren, post-Boylan years, is of a county struggling to keep up with change.

Even O'Dowd's recognition that Croke Park was no longer a place for the sort of big, sweet-ball striking – but not necessarily jet-heeled – inside forwards for which Meath have become renowned was early evidence of his awareness of what would be required to hoist the county back to its one-time perch.


For Kenny, it meant waving goodbye to some close allies, though he himself forced his way into O'Dowd's defence last summer at a time when he was just over complications in post-cruciate rehab and the Meath manager had invested substantially in players of a more youthful disposition.

"Some of the more experienced players were the ones he let go," he recalls.

"So it does instill a bit of confidence in you that you're still in the management's plans. Definitely, it was a factor in giving it another go this year."

"When Mick took over, there were probably lots of lads missing between injury and everything else, so he was kind of starting from scratch. He's in a different position now this year.

"He's probably 14 months in the job now and has this very definite vision of where he wants to go with the team. He was able to put some of that in place last year. There was a lot of players finding their feet and that sort of thing last season. We probably didn't know where we stood in Mick's plans."