Bray: I'm in good shape for new campaign
STEPHEN BRAY accepts that Meath would have preferred to be playing Dublin in the O'Byrne Cup semi-finals tomorrow.
However, at 31, the former All Star is happy just to be still involved in the county scene and reckons that DCU will provide an ideal test as Meath build towards the league and championship campaigns.
"DCU have plenty of inter-county players at their disposal and all those guys would have been back training since late September or early October," said Bray who rates himself as doubtful for tomorrow's match, having been laid low by 'flu for most of the week.
"It's going to be a good challenge - exactly what you want in the lead-up to the league."
The weather at this time of the year makes training a daunting prospect, but Bray embraces the annual early-season slog with a positive attitude.
"I just enjoy the game. I feel in good shape and I'm still able to make the commitment of inter-county football," he said.
"I feel there's probably not too many more years left for me in football, so it's just about trying to make the most of the time I have left at this level. I'm injury-free at the moment and it's great to still have the opportunity to play at the highest level. From a young age, that's what I've always wanted to do, so I just want to keep that going.
"The main thing is that I'm able to make the commitment and I'm able to balance work and life outside football."
Bray won his All Star in 2007 and a Leinster title in 2010 and would love nothing better than to see Meath claim another major title before he bows out.
Meath had a decent 2013 campaign and are quietly hopeful of making further progress this year.
"Every year is a blank canvas. At the moment it's a little too early to say how things are going to work out, but there's a positive atmosphere around the squad," said Bray.
"We have a good management team and we're looking forward to the year head. At the moment it's all got a pre-season feel to it and lads are with colleges and stuff, so it's kind of hard to tell where you're at.
"Maybe half-way through the league you could commit to saying how things are going."
Bray has already had a brush with the black card, but he's broadly in favour of this addition to the disciplinary process.
"It was a challenge match and I didn't really know the rules as well as I do now," he said. "Once the offence is dealt with as per the guidelines that were issued, then the black card is a good idea.
"You've just got to be careful tackling. You have to be very conscious of doing things properly.
"Players have to concentrate a bit more on their tackling and that's it. The black card will be good for the game if it cuts out cynical play."