Saturday 26 May 2018

Reilly: 'We are trying to build our own legacy'

Meath’s Graham Reilly. Photo: Sportsfile
Meath’s Graham Reilly. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

The truth is a dish best served cold and since Andy McEntee took the Meath football reins, he hasn't hesitated in dishing out a dose of reality when necessary, something welcomed by captain Graham Reilly.

During Seán Boylan's golden era, when Meath secured four All-Ireland titles, performances were underpinned by teak toughness (both physically and mentally) as they continuously went toe-to-toe with the game's finest and rarely blinked.

Their ferocity has reached mythical status but times have changed and in recent years the Royals have been viewed by many as a soft touch while great rivals Dublin streak to Leinster domination and 11 of the last 12 provincial crowns.

Comparisons with one of the greatest sides to play the game are "unfair" in Reilly's view but the current crop are striving to scale those same heights and he reckons they're some way down the road to redemption.

"They're trying to bring an honesty and a hard-working Meath team that hasn't been there for the last number of years. And hopefully we'll see a bit of it come the summer, but they're there for three or four years so you mightn't see all of it this year," the 28-year-old said.

"Looking from the outside in, you'd think that Meath aren't as physical and aren't as strong as they were in the past. That's a bit unfair on us as players, because we have been working very hard to get to that level. But the game has changed.

"The teams of the '80s and the '90s that were very good, they would have built around a very hard-working team and honesty - and hitting lads, if you like, to get the ball! That's gone now, you can't really do that any more because you'd be on the sideline very quickly.

"So Andy's trying to bring that edge to the game… there's a fine line between stepping over it and not, and definitely towards the latter end of the league we saw that edge. When we work hard, we're a match for most teams in the country.

"We're trying to build our own legacy. We've been trying for the last couple of years, but with Andy coming in now I really think in the next couple of years we can build that legacy."

Much like his older brother and Royal legend Gerry (a selector in the set-up), Andy McEntee isn't one to hold back and after failing to turn up in the first half of their league tie with Cork before miraculously securing a draw, the Meath boss surprised many when publicly firing with both barrels.

It's something the St Colmcille's attacker understands, in fact he demands such honesty and they hope to replicate it on the pitch.

Critical

"He was very critical of us against Cork, and we responded by going out and kicking Fermanagh off the pitch, and Clare the following week," Reilly said.

"I don't mind and I'm sure the rest of the lads don't mind if you get questioned. That's what you want to be doing. He is instilling that honesty in the team, and if you're not going to be honest and hard-working you just won't be on the team.

"We base it around hard work. That's what Andy's saying. Football-wise, are we Dublin, Kerry at the moment? No. But the hard work we can match. Andy and Gerry, and a few of the backroom team, will definitely let you know fairly quickly if they're not happy with your performance or your work ethic."

The prospect of a Leinster final clash with the Dubs is already being hyped in many circles but with Louth awaiting on Sunday, honesty will keep Reilly and his Royals on guard.

Irish Independent

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