Meath have fresh concerns about first-choice full-back Conor McGill ahead of next Sunday’s Division 2 clash with Roscommon.
The Ratoath defender, listed to start Sunday’s loss to Galway, was replaced before throw-in as Meath slumped to the largest defeat of the opening weekend of the league across all four divisions.
He is understood to have suffered an arm injury playing with his club.
Andy McEntee didn’t speak to media after the game and there is some doubt about the extent of the injury that kept McGill out, with fears now that he may miss the next few weeks for Meath.
To compound matters, Galway’s goal – a key score at a time when the match was still tight – came from a high ball to the edge of the square that was mishandled by McGill’s replacement, Ronan Ryan, with Tomo Culhane on hand to fist the rebound into the net.
Meath can’t afford to be without one of their most influential players over the remainder of a tricky Division 2 programme, particularly after Sunday, a loss that has put them on the back foot.
They took the field in Salthill without their recent first-choice midfield pairing of Bryan Menton and Ronan Jones. The former, who served as joint-captain under McEntee, is not expected to return until the end of the league.
Already, with just one game played, next weekend’s game with Roscommon has taken on a significant degree of jeopardy.
With a high percentage of Division 2 sides viable candidates for promotion, a second loss would seriously compromise Meath’s hopes of making an immediate elevation back into the league’s top flight.
Given the grave consequences of relegation from Division 2 this year – consigned to the Tailteann Cup should they fail to make a provincial final – that is one scrap best avoided.
Roscommon were impressive winners over Cork on Sunday and they may be further boosted by the return of several Pádraig Pearses players following their All-Ireland club semi-final loss to Kilmacud Crokes on Saturday. After that, Meath host Down on February 20, and, similarly, James McCartan’s hand is likely to be strengthened by his returning Kilcoo contingent.
On the positive side, four of Meath’s six remaining games are at home, while their two away fixtures are against one of last year’s promoted sides, Offaly, and Clare, against whom they have a strong recent record.
But they face a major test to turn last Sunday’s performance into a winning one against a Roscommon team who have started 2022 in strong form, contesting the FBD final and winning by seven points against Cork in Dr Hyde Park on Sunday.
It took 46 minutes of play for Joey Wallace to kick the first of Meath’s scores in Salthill, by which stage the result was effectively settled.
That was one of a number of worrying statistics on the day, although there was some mitigation in the extreme nature of the elements.
Most notably, they went a full half without scoring. Two years ago, they kicked just 0-1 in the first half against Mayo in a Division 1 clash, but unlike Sunday, they rallied in the second period that time and scored two goals to come within a whisker of a result.
They also kicked 12 wides against Galway, but arguably the statistic that will concern McEntee most was outscoring Galway by just a point in the second half, despite the aid of the wind.
McEntee, who survived a vote of no confidence by the executive of the Meath County Board last October, watched the first half from the stands in Pearse Stadium.
By the 23rd minute, he might have been quietly satisfied with what had transpired.
Galway had only scored 0-3 by then and Meath seemed to have a strong grasp on what was required: holding possession, trying to suck Galway in and then running hard into space.
It was only when Culhane scored Galway’s goal in the 28th minute that the game began slipping away from Meath and their number of errors started to escalate.