Thursday 18 January 2018

'Spirit and attitude' delights McEnaney

Meath 2-21
Carlow 1-9
Leinster SFC replay

MEATH took to the beach yesterday morning to help ease the aches after arguably their most impressive performance of the year but they will have to wait a fortnight to discover exactly what their standing is in Leinster.

After a nervous start in Tullamore, the Royals were excellent at times as a new-found confidence coursed through the team. Nine players scored, with 2-15 coming from play, but this was against a Carlow side who had lost three players since last week's drawn game, and how much improvement Meath have made will be tested at Croke Park on July 1.

Meath effectively had this game wrapped up approaching the half-hour mark when Peadar Byrne, an early substitute for the injured Brian Meade, got the first of his two goals.

Byrne's strike came in the middle of a Royal purple patch that saw them reel off 1-8 to no reply and lifted the cloud that seemed to follow Meath into the game.

Carlow capitalised on another sluggish Meath start and led 0-4 to 0-3 after 17 minutes thanks largely to the promptings of Brendan Murphy. He took on so much responsibility but his influence gradually waned and his manager revealed afterwards that the Rathvilly man was cleared to play only minutes before the game by the team doctor after picking up a blow to the head in the drawn game.

"At a kick-around on Thursday night he wasn't able to train because he had severe headaches. We got Gerry O'Flynn to examine him just before the match -- that's how close it was," Luke Dempsey said.

But Byrne's strike settled Meath and suddenly passes were sticking and overlaps were plenty. Immediately after Byrne's effort, Graham Reilly hit the crossbar after another slick passing move as Meath opened up a 1-11 to 0-4 lead by the interval.


Joe Sheridan was the only Meath forward not to have scored at that point and after seeing a first-half chance saved by Trevor O'Reilly, he hit the post with a spectacular volley within seconds of the restart.

Darragh Foley stopped the rot for Carlow with a point but Meath were dominant in every sector.

O'Reilly made another good stop from the raiding Bryan Menton and thereafter Meath opted to take their points when goal opportunities were on with Reilly and Alan Forde fisting over.

Substitute Keith Jackson registered a Carlow goal but Meath were already coming in to land at that stage with 10 minutes left as Seamus McEnaney emptied his bench, replacing key players Graham and Kevin Reilly.

Jamie Queeney made another impressive cameo, helping himself to two points before Byrne -- only recalled to the squad after the league -- notched his second goal after O'Reilly's poor kick-out fell kindly to the Ballinlough man.

Brian Farrell, taking over the dead-ball duties from Cian Ward, kicked the final point from a free as McEnaney hailed his players' application.

"Our attitude was top-class from start to finish, we worked extremely hard. No matter how much you tell players coming into a game, we couldn't convince them last week that Carlow are a decent team," said the Meath manager.

"Brendan Murphy is probably in the top three or four midfielders in the country, he's a fantastic player. He didn't control the game like he did the last day, and in fairness Conor Gillespie had a fantastic game for us.

"Being written off is nothing new for us, it's not just within the last week that has happened. But the only thing that really matters to us is what happens inside the four walls of the dressing-room.

"You can see the spirit and attitude that is there, they probably never worked as hard as this evening. It was the work ethic that was the most pleasing part of our game."

After seeing his squad lose numbers when Carlow's Leinster championship interests ended in recent seasons, Dempsey took solace from their vow to see out the remainder of their campaign, and he gave Meath every chance in the Leinster semi-final.

"I think this group is different. They'll stick together, they pledged that among themselves in there. They are very disappointed. We should have a full panel to pick from but it did hit us hard, missing those absent players. We have to pick ourselves up.

"It should be a ding-dong semi-final because that Meath team is improving."

SCORERS -- Meath: B Farrell 0-8 (5f), P Byrne 2-0, G Reilly 0-4, D Carroll, A Forde, J Queeney 0-2 each, C Ward ('45'), B Menton, C Gillespie 0-1 each. Carlow: JJ Smith 0-5 (3f), K Jackson 1-0, K Nolan, Brian Murphy (1f), Brendan Murphy (1f), D Foley 0-1 each.

Meath -- D Gallagher 7; D Keoghan 7, K Reilly 7, M Burke; D Tobin 7, S McAnarney 8, B Menton 8; C Gillespie 8, B Meade 6; A Forde 7, D Carroll 7, G Reilly 8; B Farrell 8, J Sheridan 7, C Ward 7. Subs: P Byrne 8 for B Meade (inj 18), E Harrington 7 for K Reilly (60), J Queeney 7 for G Reilly (62), C O'Connor for D Tobin (65), M Collins for C Ward (66).

Carlow -- T O'Reilly 7; P Murphy 6, C Lawlor 6, B Kavanagh 6; K Nolan 7, S Redmond 6, T Bolger 6; Brendan Murphy 7, D Foley 6; Brian Murphy 6, C Murphy 5, E Ruth 6; JJ Smith 6, S Gannon 5, C Walshe 5. Subs: B Lambe 6 for K Nolan (42), K Jackson 7 for C Murphy (42), BJ Molloy 6 for P Murphy (53), L Shepard 6 for D Foley (61), P McElligot for T Bolger (66).

Ref -- D Fahy (Longford).

Irish Independent

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