Wednesday 16 January 2019

McEntee's Royals romp home in launch of changes

Meath 3-11 Laois 0-6

Gary Walsh of Laois in action against Seamus Lavin of Meath. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Gary Walsh of Laois in action against Seamus Lavin of Meath. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

What did we learn? Perhaps no more than this: that trialling experimental rules in darkest winter may be a futile exercise. In Portlaoise on Saturday evening the changes had little visible impact, as Meath overpowered Laois in deplorable weather conditions.

Not, then, an evening of much enlightenment.

Darragh Campion of Meath in action against Mark Timmons of Laois. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Darragh Campion of Meath in action against Mark Timmons of Laois. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The limit on consecutive handpasses was only breached on a few occasions by each team. You had more footpassing, but it wasn't a conclusive sign of a change of direction.

The advanced mark earned even less notice, with a reluctance to kick long in swirling winds and lashing rain. In better weather it will be more fairly assessed, as Meath manager Andy McEntee stated afterwards.

"The handpass, I can see something to it," he said.

"If I was to tweak it, I might restrict it to between the two 45s. Because when you get closer to goal and a lot of bodies there, how are you going to manage? It could lead to a lot of rucks and a lot of scrums. And you saw there tonight where you had fellas trying to kick a five-yard footpass."

Niall Hickey of Meath is tackled by Scott Osborne of Laois. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Niall Hickey of Meath is tackled by Scott Osborne of Laois. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

McEntee also extended sympathy to referees charged with implementing the new rules.

"I think the linesmen need to be given more authority. There are a couple of very obvious breaches of rules, whatever rules they were, right in front of us and the referee maybe was unsighted because there were players in his way."

Laois were competitive for over 20 minutes and then caved in, conceding 2-4 in seven minutes.

Meath were more physical, adaptable and better on the ball. Michael Newman kicked confidently off the ground, and corner-back Ronan Ryan and Daniel Quinn had first-half goals. Meath led 2-8 to 0-3 at the interval, Thomas O'Reilly scoring their final goal in the second-half.

Sean Tobin of Meath in action against David Conway of Laois. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Sean Tobin of Meath in action against David Conway of Laois. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Laois manager John Sugrue had mixed feelings on the new rules.

"In the first-half he called a mark for a Meath back who never put his hand in the air. In the second-half we probably got a mark which never got the whistle. So I think it requires work.

"It's very difficult on referees, it's a completely new concept. They are trying to watch lots of different things. Even the three handpass thing, at one stage we had five handpasses and there was no free."

Central Council will review the experimental rules on January 19 before the start of the National League.

Graham Reilly of Meath in action against Patrick O'Sullivan of Laois. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Graham Reilly of Meath in action against Patrick O'Sullivan of Laois. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Laois welcomed back Daniel O'Reilly, who suffered serious head injuries after being attacked while on a night out last April. His side heads to Wexford next Saturday, with Meath facing Longford, and Dublin the next day.

Scorers - Meath: M Newman 0-5 (4f, 1 45), D Quinn, T O'Reilly 1-1, R Ryan 1-0, J Conlon 0-2, D Keogan, D Campion 0-1 Laois: G Walsh 0-2 (1f), B Daly, E Lowry, D Conway, M Timmons 0-1

Meath - A Colgan; S Lavin, B Menton, R Ryan; J McEntee, D Keogan, G McCoy; S Tobin, A Flanagan; D Quinn, D Campion, B McMahon; J Conlon, M Newman, T O'Reilly Subs: N Hickey for Conlon (inj 30 mins); G Reilly for McMahon (47); C Magill for Tobin (54); T McGovern & N Kane for R Ryan & G McCoy (56); R Garry for Quinn (58; S Reilly & A Beakey for J McEntee & Colgan (64)

Laois - S Osbourne; A Campion, D Booth, D O'Connor; S Attride, M Timmons, R Piggot; J O'Loughlin, B Daly; M Scully, D Conway, S Byrne; E Lowry, G Walsh, P Kingston Subs: D O'Reilly for Daly & M Keogh for Kingston & P O'Sullivan for Piggott (43 mins); D Strong for O'Loughlin & S Nerney for O'Connor & N Murphy for Conway (50); B Byrne & R Hitchcock for M Scully & Campion (64); F Crowley for Attride (65)

Ref - F Pierce (Offaly)

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