Dempsey has score to settle with Royals
IT'S almost four years since a Meath delegation travelled to Mullingar and decided that Luke Dempsey was the man to succeed Colm Coyle as Royal County manager.
And almost four years since, as he puts it, "the rug was pulled out from underneath him."
A five-man committee originally voted 3-2 in Dempsey's favour ahead of Eamonn O'Brien, but his appointment was never ratified and the process started all over again.
Dempsey had seen enough. He withdrew his name from the running, aghast at how business had been conducted, but he has kept an eye on the goings-on in Meath ever since.
"It was an exciting prospect to become Meath manager," the Carlow boss recalls. "It wasn't a job I went looking for, but when they came to see me, I was excited by it.
"From what I heard afterwards, the rug was pulled out from underneath me by some former players who didn't like the idea of an outside manager. Once I heard it was getting political, I ran a mile."
O'Brien was eventually appointed, but Meath's managerial problems didn't stop there. Despite reaching the semi-finals of the All-Ireland and winning a Leinster title, O'Brien was shafted by the clubs.
Meath would appoint their first outside manager as O'Brien's successor when Seamus McEnaney was installed. 'Banty' survived a mid-season vote of no confidence and as Dempsey sees it, he hasn't been afforded enough time.
"When you look at the experience of myself, Eamonn O'Brien and Seamus McEnaney, maybe what needs to be looked at closest is what goes on outside of football," he says.
"That's why you have to admire Seamus and what he did when he stood his ground. He's a players' man.
"It wouldn't have been for me, but that's a personal thing. I'm lucky in that I've had good relationships with county boards I have worked with."
Dempsey brings his Carlow side to Tullamore tomorrow and he has a chance to kick Meath when they are down. The Royals were punch-drunk from their relegation to Division 3, and McEnaney looked out for the count. He survived and Meath beat Wicklow in a potentially tricky opener.
The sides last met in the championship in 2008 when Meath, shorn of the suspended Niall McKeigue, Shane McAnarney, Brendan Murphy, Seamus Kenny and Nigel Crawford after a Parnell Park brawl with Dublin in the league, still managed a 1-25 to 0-8 win.
And, despite Carlow's underwhelming league form (they beat only Kilkenny, London and Waterford), Dempsey remains upbeat.
Similar to last season when they came from nowhere to shock Louth, they have been afforded six weeks of uninterrupted preparation.
"Every team should have that. The fact that we'll know a couple of provincial finalists and that Longford will have played three games by the time we start our championship is a bit ridiculous," he says.
As part of their preparations, Carlow visited Fota Island, a resort that has also been used by Munster rugby as well as the Cork and Dublin footballers.
"I've always thought training camps were beneficial. And we did it in a responsible way. The players fundraised before Christmas by having a 'Fight Night'. It's good for the smaller counties to get a peek over the wall to see how the bigger counties conduct their business."
Despite their shaky form, Meath have been installed as 1/12 favourites to set up a semi-final date with Kildare or Offaly. Dempsey isn't predicting a shock but he is quietly pleased.
"In the league we were without six or seven of the team that beat Louth, for different reasons. We had to rebuild our team over the league, but we're happy with how things have gone."