Tuesday 22 October 2019

McEntee insists physical progress is a key factor in Royal rejuvenation

Meath manager Andy McEntee. Photo: Sportsfile
Meath manager Andy McEntee. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Ahead of Andy McEntee's first championship match in charge of Meath in 2017, the county staged a media day in Dowth Hall in the Boyne Valley.

It was, those present on the day agreed, a fitting venue. Like Meath football, the 18th-century house came with significant history but it would need much painstaking work to restore it to its former glories.

A little over two years on and the work is starting to show. When McEntee came on board, the Royals needed to improve in just about every department but gradually the worm has started to turn.

"I think the quantum of players that can play at inter-county level has improved and increased," McEntee reflected. "I think you can see by the quality of some of the players that are not regulars on the team. That's one of the things,

"I think physically the team has improved. Again, we'll have to give a lot of credit to (strength and conditioning coach) John Coghlan on that front. The way Dublin have approached it, they're putting layer upon layer upon layer.

"You have a lot of guys there who have been around for quite some time. We're just probably beginning to see the benefit of that continuous work from a fitness and strength perspective."

"I think that's fair to say (that Meath were behind physically). There's a good group of that 2012 minor team involved. And I think they were a decent template to follow. And it's starting to come through now.

"You can see over the last few years we've been successful at U-17, U-18 and U-20 level. Reasonably successful without landing any national title.

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"And you're starting to see that with the quality of players coming through. The likes of Ethan Devine and Darragh Campion and fellas like that. You know they have the work done. So it's starting to show, I think."

There have been improvements in others areas too. Off the field, the benefits of the county's centre of excellence started to show as Meath's underage teams, too often marked absent, have started to be more competitive.

And as the results of the senior side have improved, the crowds returned to Páirc Tailteann as the Royals picked their way through Division 2.

"I'd like to go on record, the Meath supporters have been very good to us this year. Throughout the league. The game against Armagh in Navan. Against Kildare in Navan. The game against Fermanagh in Navan. There were six or seven thousand people at them games. First game against Offaly. They have supported us well.

"It's one of the things we are conscious of. But I think if we put up the performance, Meath supporters will come out and support us. They're as eager to have a successful team as we are.

"That's one of the reasons we're doing it. You are representing your clubs and your families as well. But yeah, I think if we want them to support us, we've got to give them something to support."

Despite the improvements, the Royals remain a long way off Sunday's opponents Dublin. Dublin have been handing out heavy beatings in Leinster for years now but McEntee insists that no matter what happens in Croke Park this weekend, the work in the county will continue.

"We're trying to put up the best performance they possibly can. Let's see where that takes us.

"On any given day, you're going to win or lose. If we can perform with some of the qualities we'd like to associate with Meath football, I think that will be enough to encourage (us).

"Our season won't be determined by the result on Sunday."

"I think given the demographics of Meath and the population... the truth of the matter is we've got to roll up our sleeves and we've got to put the work in.

"I think you're starting to see it at underage level. We're starting to be consistently competitive. And long term, that has to be the long-term goal for everybody."

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