Goalkeeper O'Rourke opts out of Meath football squad for 2018
Meath have been dealt a blow ahead of the 2018 football season with the departure of long-serving goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke from the squad.
O'Rourke has opted not to make the commitment next season, ending a seven-year association with the team.
It comes after confirmation that two of the most promising players in the county, Ronan Jones and Ruairí Ó Coileáin, will also not be available next season.
Jones, who impressed in his championship debut as a midfielder against Louth, has taken up a college placement in Boston for two years while Ó Coileáin, who sparked life into Meath on his introduction against Kildare in the Leinster semi-final, has taken an internship in New York with a legal firm.
A fourth member of last year's starting team, defender Padraig Harnan, will also be unavailable to Andy McEntee when preparations get under way as he is going travelling in the coming months which will take him out of the picture for most of 2018.
But it's the withdrawal of O'Rourke that will cause most concern as he has established firm roots as No 1 in this decade, having had a brief spell at full-forward in 2011.
There is now the prospect of Joe Sheridan stepping up to the role after his surprise elevation to replacement goalkeeper in 2017.
Sheridan was coaxed out of retirement in late 2016 by McEntee and remained on the squad throughout last season without seeing much action.
It was widely felt that Sheridan, now 33, would not continue next season but O'Rourke's departure has compelled him to commit again to the goalkeeping role.
The loss of four potential starters will be felt by Meath as they embark on an Allianz Division Two campaign in January, having fallen short narrowly in 2017.
The county have struggled to make a mark at underage level in recent times and have only made one Leinster U-21 final appearance in 16 years.
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