Kenny: knee injury left me ready to quit
SEAMUS KENNY is in no rush home. In the same place where he spent hours rehabbing the knee that robbed him of last season, he's revelling in the build-up to Sunday's Leinster SFC final with Dublin.
The Simonstown Gaels veteran has seen more troughs than peaks.
His timing was unfortunate. He came on the scene in 2000, too late for the All-Ireland triumph of the previous September. In his second season, he made his championship bow as the Royals picked up another Leinster title and reached the All-Ireland final. Then Meath nosedived.
Sean Boylan moved on and Dublin took a grip on the province. Managers came and went, with 2008 particularly harrowing. They lost a 10-point lead with 18 minutes remaining against Wexford before they were hammered in Limerick. What made it all the more frustrating was that that year was sandwiched between two All-Ireland semi-final appearances.
"After Limerick, as a player, first and foremost, you're embarrassed. You're embarrassed for yourself; you're embarrassed as a group, that you'd let yourself down, you'd let your team-mates down," Kenny recalls.
"The county that had built up so much tradition – and this is no disrespect to Limerick – but they absolutely hammered us. We were 20 points down at one stage and it was just ... it was an embarrassment. You were afraid nearly to show your face. You just knew that everybody was talking about you and that you didn't deserve to wear the jersey."
Through the highs and lows, Kenny (right) prevailed. Tomas O Se is the longest serving footballer in the country, having made his championship debut in 1998, but Kenny has crept up that table. Injury made last year a write-off, but at 33, and with a knee that has seen three separate operations, he's back for more.
The road back was solitary. He had picked up his injury as Meath captain, but with Mick O'Dowd overhauling the squad, there was no guarantee Kenny would be recalled.
Last New Year's Eve he trained in Navan, his left knee finally back up to speed from the injury picked up against Wicklow the previous summer. The following day in training the right knee buckled.
"I picked up the nearest ice pack, got into the car and drove home. That was it; I was ready for just throwing the boots out.
"It was fierce frustrating. I'd put in a lot of work to get the left knee sorted. I was getting to a stage where the previous six-seven months was a thing of the past, and then for this to come again ... I spent all New Year's Day in bed. I couldn't even get up, I had that much hassle with the knee, and I was questioning 'What is the point?'.
"Then I went for a scan, and then more frustration – nothing showed up. Eventually I met up with Ray Moran. I just said, 'Look Ray, I have to get something done here.' Luckily, Ray had been my surgeon before and he operated on it, cleaned it up."
Last year he could only look on as Dublin reigned again. There were three points in it but Dublin were more comfortable than that.
On Sunday, he'll return at wing-back. Even as Meath's most experienced player, Kenny will never have encountered a Meath-Dublin clash like this one. It's expected to be a formality for the Dubs, even if the Royals traditionally like to make things awkward for them.
"I wouldn't like to say we'd go in solely relying on that. The emphasis is on us and how we can get the best out of ourselves. We're not naive enough to think just going out and playing our best football will be enough. There's going to be an element of tactics. You always want to be chasing medals. If you don't believe that you can, then there's no point."