Sunday 20 October 2019

Menton hails McEntee effect as Meath bid to stem the Blue tide

Meath's Bryan Menton. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Meath's Bryan Menton. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Bryan Menton is fortunate enough to have been around the Meath set-up long enough to remember a provincial triumph over Dublin - he was part of the panel for the five-goal victory in 2010 - but that has merely been a blip on the radar.

One of football's great rivalries has been reduced to rubble of late. Meath's record against Dublin stands at one championship success in the last ten clashes. The Dubs, on the other hand, will be looking for a 27th consecutive win in the province when the sides meet in Croke Park on Sunday.

On aggregate, Dublin have won the last three championship meetings by a staggering 34 points. As Jim Gavin's men have brought the game to new heights, Meath have struggled to make any impact. If a Meath footballer's career is judged by his record against Dublin, then it has been the most difficult time to be a keeper of the flame.

"It has been a tough era," admitted joint-captain Menton, a native of Ashbourne, which straddles the border between the two counties.

"We're delighted to be back there now and ready to rock. It's where we want to be. There has been a few tough years. Unfortunately, I have been part of that the whole way throughout. But it's great to be back there competing again."

This is manager Andy McEntee's third year in charge and, slowly, the ship has started to turn. Progression has come as no surprise to Menton who played for the fiercely driven McEntee at club level.

Meath followed promotion in the league with three wins in Leinster. So, no matter what happens, they are guaranteed a minimum of five games in the championship this year, the same number of matches they played in 2017 and 2018 combined.

"His (McEntee's) passion has probably been seen by many and you hear it in interviews as well.

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"His love for Meath is incredible, but also it's his professionalism in everything we do - gym work and training sessions. His level of professionalism is second to none.

"He was with Ballyboden and won an All-Ireland. He also managed the Meath minors after Donaghmore-Ashbourne. You see that he can push progress and always wants to exceed his goals."

Menton delivered two goals from midfield against Laois in the Leinster semi-final and believes he is reaching the peak of his powers. He is expected to go up against 2018 footballer of the year Brian Fenton this weekend and that will be a real test.

"I have the experience under my belt, timing the runs, the skill level may have improved slightly. But also, I'm consistently playing in one position. I've tried to become a midfielder and a midfielder only. That's allowed me to know what fitness level I need to get to. The certain skill level I need to get to. If I'm not in my prime at just gone 28 years of age, it might be that bit too late for me.

"He (Fenton) is at the top of his game. He has probably been one of the best midfielders in Ireland in recent years.

"But I'm concentrating on my own game. We are just really going after a performance. That's number one.

"We know we have a lot to improve on after the last three games in the championship. We are going to have to up it a level massively."

The bookmakers have put the handicap at +12. However, a dozen points head start doesn't chime with the storied rivalry between these opponents.

Dublin have handed out two heavy beatings in Leinster so far this year and are tipped to deliver another. Could a big loss undo some of the progress made by the Royal County in 2019?

"You have to kind of deal with that when it comes, if it comes. We know that we have to perform a lot better than we have in the last three games,' he added.

"We will concentrate on our own performance and deal with everything else that comes with it afterwards."

Irish Independent

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