Newman determined to live up to Meath's great expectations
LAST spring, Mickey Newman was just one of a host of new faces in the Meath set-up.
He was well known around the county but had never quite made the cut. Twice he was called in by Seamus McEnaney for the pre-season grind but, for different reasons, he never got past February.
Mick O'Dowd had different ideas. Newman was one of the beneficiaries of his radical panel overhaul. As the season unfolded, the Kilmainham man was handed more and more responsibility.
Before Meath's race was run, he had kicked frees into the Hill against Dublin and established himself as one of the fulcrums of the attack. It was a rapid rise but as the air got thinner, he coped.
"I played U-21 and minor and Sigerson football for three years so I was used to the pressure with the frees and that," he said. "It was always something I thought I could do but it was always a matter of getting in there. It didn't faze me too much. I was just delighted to get in.
"Looking in, you'll have arguments for players that should and shouldn't be in. In fairness, Mick O'Dowd was very open and you can see it with the age profile, if you're good enough then you'll get in.
"I'm just happy to keep doing what I'm doing and I don't think it's easier ... it's very competitive."
A sure sign that his profile is on the rise came when Avonmore drafted him in to help promote their new protein milk.
And when Meath take to championship football, as they do tomorrow against Carlow, the cover Newman enjoyed as a new face will be well and truly blown.
"I suppose it's very different in the sense that expectation starts to come into play," he said.
"Last year, I was just trying to get on the team, get on the panel really, never mind starting. But I suppose you just have to try and take it in your stride and get the hard work done in the pre-season."
A niggling groin injury has troubled him in the run up to tomorrow's game but he has been named to start in the full-forward line in a new-look Meath side that has been hit hard by a swell of injuries.
Last year, Newman's club were operating in the junior grade. The step up from that to inter-county football and all that comes with it surprised him.
"The commitment, I suppose, is the one that always stands out. It takes a lot of commitment and you just have to manage your time as best you can and work on the areas that you're weak in your time off as much as you can. The commitment side of it, that's tough."
Meath had their wobbles in the league but found a turning point in Ballybofey, of all places, when the home side needed a late free to snatch a draw. From there, the steady building work continued.
"I think definitely inside Meath that expectations will always be high and rightly so. There's a lot of tradition in the county. It has probably upped a little in the last year or two," he said.
"We just have to keep doing what we're doing and keep progressing the way we are. For the moment, though, we're not going to look past Carlow."