Rivalry with the Dubs inspired me – O'Dowd
MEATH boss Mick O'Dowd has revealed that the storied rivalry between the Royals and Dublin gave him his love of football.
Having been part of the Meath squad that beat Dublin in the 2001 Leinster final, O'Dowd gets his first taste of the derby from a manager's perspective in Sunday's Croke Park decider.
"In 2001, Graham (Geraghty) fisted in between Davy Byrne and Paddy Christie," O'Dowd recalled. "My memories go back to the 1980s. They were great days and gave me the love of the game that I have and they are probably the reason I'm doing this (managing Meath).
"I'm very proud of where I'm from and you'd be inspired by those days. No doubt some of the current crop were inspired by the days in the 1990s."
O'Dowd was a surprise choice to become the fifth manager in the seven years since the departure of Sean Boylan but surrounded himself with a back-room team who all had all been part of previous regimes.
"Somewhere inside me, I knew that some time I'd like to manage Meath and that I'd like to manage my own club and I'm not really ever going to be someone that'll manage anyone other than my club or my county. That's just the way I would be, so when Meath needed a manager I kind of decided I wanted to go for it.
"The three people I wanted to work with me were Sean (Kelly), Colm (Brady) and Trevor (Giles) so I spoke to them and then just took it from there."
O'Dowd (right) got off to a shaky start in Division 3 and pressure mounted as after two games they looked more likely to visit Division 4 than gain promotion, as the manager had targeted.
"When you come into a set-up and you yourself are a change and you are bringing change with new players – and you are making decisions on key leaders who have been carrying injury for a while and you decide to keep them back with a view to having them later in the season – then you are going to have downs and it won't be all plain sailing," he said.
"Once players bought into that then it was okay. We lost two games in the league, that is all. When we lost we looked at what we didn't do right and then moved on to the next game."
Some of the GAA's traditional rivalries have taken a beating this summer, most notably when Mayo dismantled Galway in Connacht, and given Dublin's sensational form many are predicting a similarly one-sided affair this weekend.
"I think our players are quite focused and they understand that improvement individually and collectively is what we are looking for, and it's what we have been looking for since we came in. We are trying to put in place a solid platform to get the best out of the Meath players we have at our disposal.
"That's a long-term project. When the championship comes it's a short-term project of course but there's an element of the long term too. Fellas know that.
"They are quite focused on getting more and more out of themselves in each game. Going in against Dublin in a Leinster final, everyone knows a big improvement is required."