Sunday 18 March 2018

Peter Canavan: Meath have glimmer of hope if they take leaf out of Ireland's book

Meath manager Mick O'Dowd Picture: Philip Fitzpatrick / SPORTSFILE
Meath manager Mick O'Dowd Picture: Philip Fitzpatrick / SPORTSFILE

Peter Canavan

It is 15 years since Galway and Meath fought out the All-Ireland final, and much has changed on the football landscape in the interim.

These two traditional counties, along with Kerry, dominated the game during a six-year period. Now, Meath must follow Galway's example in upsetting the odds against Mayo last weekend.

The Royals go into Sunday's Leinster clash with Dublin as even bigger outsiders than Galway were in Castlebar, and on all known form, it's hard to see them putting it up to the All-Ireland champions for 70 minutes.

Mick O'Dowd is in his fourth season at the Meath helm, so in managerial terms he's entering last-chance saloon territory. As a result, you'd expect his players to show a bit of fight and storm into Dublin from the start, in a way that Ireland laid down a few early markers against Italy on Wednesday night.

He won't be talking about it inside or outside the dressing-room, but one of O'Dowd's big hopes will be that complacency seeps into the Dublin camp.

No-one in the country is expecting anything other than a big victory for the All-Ireland champions, and no matter how hard Jim Gavin tries, it's very hard for the Dublin manager to insulate his players from this thinking. Mind you, the fact there's a healthy competition for places does help his cause.

This Meath team will need to perform to a level they haven't reached yet under O'Dowd, and do it over a sustained period - second half performances have become a problem for them. It's highly unlikely but, if the Dubs don't fire on all cylinders, there is a chance the game could take a life of its own. However, seeing will be believing.

The odds for the curtain-raiser are not as tilted, but Kildare are still rated 2/5 favourites to beat Westmeath, and for the life of me I can't understand why.

Cian O'Neill's team were far from impressive scrambling their way through Division 3 to secure promotion and then losing their league final to Clare in Croke Park. Four weeks later, they went to the same venue with a totally different game-plan for their Championship opener and were fortunate to edge past Wexford (0-9 to 0-8).

They played that day with an overloaded defence, a system which looked alien to their players, and scored the sum total of two points in the second half. That definitely won't do this time and with Westmeath possessing a forward of genuine class in John Heslin, the value option is definitely Tom Cribbin's men.

Irish Independent

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