SEAMUS McENANEY has found an unlikely ally in his bid to remain as manager of the Meath senior footballers after former Royals boss Eamonn Barry called on the county's clubs to retain the Monaghan man until the end of the season.
onight's county board meeting will decide whether McEnaney will lead the Royals into a second successive championship campaign.
The former Monaghan manager refused a request from the management committee to step down in the wake of their embarrassing defeat to Louth that saw them fall to the third tier of league football and they have subsequently asked the clubs to remove McEnaney and reinstall four-time All-Ireland winner Sean Boylan.
And while Barry was an outspoken opponent to the idea of an outside manager before McEnaney's appointment in late 2010, he insists the Corduff man has become the "sacrificial lamb" to disguise shortcomings among some of the county's top brass.
"I was one of the people opposed to Seamus' appointment," admitted the Walterstown clubman. "And that was purely on the grounds that I felt we didn't need an outside man. Meath have plenty of men capable of doing the job who have been successful in football.
"But I have been hugely impressed with most of the work he has done with the squad.
"And I have the utmost respect for the way he has conducted himself with all that has gone on in recent weeks. I believe most of the clubs in Meath will feel the same way.
"Last September, Meath ratified Seamus and his current management team until the end of this year.
"Due process should prevail and Seamus should be afforded the chance to see out his term and then we can look at it again at the end of the season.
"He was given three years, with a review after the second year, and we should honour that.
"As a coaching officer in Meath last year I attended a number of training sessions and I found them to be very good. The players enjoy it and I believe they are happy to continue with him until the end of the championship."
Boylan's willingness to step into the breach further complicates the issue for club delegates.
He would obviously be a popular appointment, but Barry warned that disposing of a fourth manager since the Dunboyne man ended his 23-year tenure in late 2005 would be a retrograde step.
Many of the top sides in the country have opted for stability, with Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone and Cork all showing a willingness to leave their management teams in place for several seasons.
Meath legends like Colm O'Rourke, Bernard Flynn and Trevor Giles have also stated that Meath football's problems run much deeper than simply changing a manager.
"Since the Leinster final debacle in 2010, things have gone from bad to worse and now they are totally out of control," Barry stated.
"This is a sad day for Meath football, but unfortunately it is one that has been coming for three years.
"Getting rid of Eamonn O'Brien then was a mistake, but removing 'Banty' and his management team would be a total injustice to the man. I hope the clubs will make the right decision and I believe the majority of people in the clubs will feel the same way."
The Meath squad met in Simonstown GFC's clubrooms on Monday night -- the home club of county captain Seamus Kenny -- and a majority of the players were believed to be in favour of retaining the manager.
Contrary to inaccurate reports in some newspapers, they opted against becoming the first Meath squad to make a public statement, but are expected to privately make their views known to county board officials.
With the backing of the players and a number of clubs known to be prepared to support McEnaney, his dismissal does not look to be as cut and dried as it did in the immediate aftermath of the defeat to Louth, though he still faces an uphill battle to secure the job into the summer.
McEnaney continued to carry out his duties as Meath manager, making an appearance at a number of the first-round championship games in the county across the weekend, while he was also spotted at Wicklow's NFL win over Clare that secured promotion to Division 3.
Meath open their Leinster championship campaign against Harry Murphy's side on May 27 in Carlow's Dr Cullen Park. And Barry, who has clashed with Barney Allen on a number issues in the past, went on to declare that the majority of the clubs' ire should be directed in the direction of the county chairman.
"I believe the chairman Barney Allen has serious questions to answer in the wake of the county board meeting where he denied all knowledge of Sean Boylan's resignation from his role as director of football.
"And if the motion to remove McEnaney doesn't get the required two-thirds majority, surely that makes the chairman's position untenable," he said.
Allen could not be contacted for comment.
McEnaney spell in hot seat
Seamus McEnaney appointed as Meath's first 'outside' manager. After in-depth details regarding the cost of the new management are released to delegates, Meath's clubs vote 53-19 in favour of the Monaghan man. McEnaney is installed for a three-year term, with a review after the second season.
McEnaney completes his management team as double All-Ireland winner Barry Callaghan joins Liam Harnan, Martin McElkennon and Paul Grimley in the back-room team.
Meath narrowly avoid relegation to Division 3 by virtue of their victory over Sligo. Harnan and Callaghan walk away, with the decision to recall Graham Geraghty to the squad among the reasons given.
Meath fall to Kildare in the Leinster quarter-final by six points when Geraghty has a 'goal' controversially disallowed shortly after his introduction. Former Skryne footballer Tom Keague is appointed to one of the vacant selector positions.
The All-Ireland qualifier draw pairs the Royals with Louth -- the sides meet for the first time since the Leinster final debacle of the previous summer. Cian Ward shoots the lights out with four goals.
Meath also edge out Galway in Navan, but still can't find a way past Kildare in the third round of the qualifiers, meaning Meath's season is over in mid-July.
Damning statements from Harnan and Callaghan are read out to a county board meeting, but McEnaney is given the green light to continue for a second term, with Keague filling Harnan's role as assistant manager, while Geraghty is unveiled as a player-selector.
On the same night, Sean Boylan is named as the county's new director of football. Grimley also leaves the Meath set-up to join up with his native Armagh.
Senior players Brendan Murphy, Anthony Moyles and Nigel Crawford end their careers. Crawford later says that Meath have "gone backwards" under McEnaney.
Meath's Allianz National Football League campaign starts brightly with victories over Monaghan and Westmeath.
However, the wheels come off after a narrow defeat to Kildare -- their fifth in a row to the Lilies -- which sparks a five-game losing streak, culminating in an embarrassing hammering at the hands of Louth and relegation to Division 3.
Boylan steps down from his role as director of football with Meath and insists the county board had been informed "some weeks ago" despite denials from the top brass that this was the case.
Meath's management committee subsequently recommend the termination of McEnaney's tenure in charge and line Boylan up as a replacement.
A full county board meeting is called for tonight where the clubs will be asked to give the required two-thirds majority to oust McEnaney and re-instate Boylan.