Meath manager Colm O’Rourke – ‘We will have a good team but it may take two or three years’

Meath manager Colm O'Rourke with Kildare manager Glenn Ryan after the Allianz Football League Division 2 match between Kildare and Meath at St Conleth's Park in Newbridge, Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Seán WallDrogheda Independent

If Colm O’Rourke needed to know the enormity of the task to be a success as Meath senior football team manager, it was hammered home to him in no uncertain terms throughout the Allianz FL campaign.

The honeymoon period lasted just two matches with wins over Cork and Clare before reality set in. It has been a sobering experience since then for the Meath boss and there were few signs that it was about to get better any time soon at St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge, last Sunday.

At the final whistle, following Kildare’s five points success, ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ was played over the tannoy and before anyone starts to jump to conclusions, the reason for the choice of music was because it was the last game at the venue prior to the commencement of a major development which will be completed in 2025.

O’Rourke demonstrated throughout his playing career that he was not one to quit easily and his perseverance on the playing pitch eventually brought unprecedented success.

Meath supporters will be hoping for similar in his present role and O’Rourke again called for patience following this latest defeat.

“We are not going to be winning three or four All-Irelands in a row starting this year, it is going to take time,” O’Rourke said afterwards. “But we have good young players and I would still be confident that we will have a good team but it may take two or three years.

“It was very disappointing today, particularly in the first half. We did improve a bit in the second half but our first half display was very very poor altogether.”

He did, however ,see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel as he felt his defence coped better than in previous outings.

“The strange thing about it we had the exact formation in the back that we were to have against Dublin but against Dublin it broke down in the early stages, better quality opposition I suppose. From that point of view, the defence didn’t give away too much – 13 points – it wasn’t a big score, but our accuracy, our shot selection has been a big problem in all of our games and particularly today.

“I don’t know if it is confidence, our training has been going very well, the lads were disappointed after the Dublin display and at a meeting they were very open and honest about it and set about trying to work on it at training this week which went very well. Again we didn’t bring it to the game.”

O’Rourke admitted that much work needed to be done ahead of the championship and the outing away to the winners of Longford/Offaly on April 23.

“We have a lot of work to do on our defence, it is a big issue. Our accuracy rate in shooting has been very poor throughout the whole league. That is one area of major concern and something we will give a lot of attention to.

“We have a break now of four weeks, we are going to be making a few changes to the panel and of course when the U20 finishes we will be able to incorporate a few of those fellows into the team. We have left them alone up until now. We have a development squad going and we are going to have a look at some of those lads as well to add to the panel so it has been a good experience from the point of view that I think 30 lads have played league football.

“We are in a position now that we have learned a lot about the squad and about the team in the space of a few months and we are certainly in a better position to go forward.

“There probably will some players dropping off the panel. Some fellas will go back to their clubs and we will continue to monitor them. Between the U20s and the development squad and the senior squad we have been keeping an eye on up to 90 players over the past few months. We will be picking a new squad now based on the best of those players from all those groups. We will be leaving the U20 with their own group until they are finished in the championship.”

Despite this latest defeat O’Rourke’s said Meath’s destination was still in their own hands regarding the championship.

“We are dependant now on the likes of Cavan and Clare not reaching provincial finals, but we still have control of that, beat Offaly or Longford and win the semi-final and you still guarantee yourself the last 16 and you don’t have to worry about anyone else.

“It is not the road we would have chosen but that’s the way it is. The project is long term, I think the people who come to games, the real supporters will understand that. There is no quick fix to this, some of the U20s coming along will give it a boost but I think it is a long road ahead for us and we are all understanding of that and committed to it.”