McEntee relief as Meath dig deep to pull out of spiral
Meath 1-13 Offaly 0-14
After 20 minutes of the second half in Páirc Tailteann yesterday, the locals were well and truly restless.
Offaly were on top. Forcefully so. Andy McEntee's Meath team had contrived to turn a three-point half-time lead into a four-point deficit, failed entirely to score in those 20 minutes and suddenly Navan felt haunted by the ghosts of recent traumatic Leinster SFC defeats.
"I'm sure that thought crossed everybody's mind," McEntee admitted. "The players are human. They'll say 'here we go again. But that's where the credit is due. Four points down, playing into a bit of a breeze. All the momentum is with Offaly, and we turned it around."
"But I think those players are smart enough and honest enough to realise that wasn't their best performance.
"Some of the competitors we have in that dressing-room and some of the leaders, they'd like to play that game again. If that's not the case I'd be disappointed."
The previous hour and a half hadn't represented Meath's best work.
McEntee was quick to ascribe a hefty part of the victory to luck although it should be noted that his team had worked themselves diligently back into the game by the time good fortune presented itself.
Bryan McMahon's 63rd-minute goal was undeniably lucky. It was obvious James Conlon was shooting for a point, but his kick ballooned up in the air, well short of its target.
Despite giving several inches away to Offaly goalkeeper Paddy Dunican, McMahon managed to break the ball to the deck and then the Ratoath man reacted quickest to tap to the net.
"Yeah I'm sure James was shooting for a point," McEntee shrugged. "It wasn't exactly a pre-planned move."
Prior to the goal, Meath had managed to stitch together three points in their most coherent passage of football of the day. To do that, they first had to break Offaly's momentum.
Their Faithful's midfield pairing of Eoin Carroll and Peter Cunningham were dominant in that time, while Niall McNamee engineered a goal chance saved by Andrew Colgan.
The number of basic errors Meath committed was alarmingly high.
"The amount of ball we gave away would suggest execution was a lot of it," the Meath manager admitted.
Quite why they lulled so badly after the break was a mystery to McEntee and everyone else in Páirc Tailteann.
It wasn't as if they spent half-time admiring their work. Bryan Menton took the fight to Offaly at stages but it was the gutsy contributions of Donal Keogan and Gavin McCoy when Meath were sinking that stood out over the scoring contributions of Mickey Newman, Cillian O'Sullivan and McMahon.
"If you're slightly off, you're going to get punished. And I'm not sure we're good enough to be slightly off," McEntee surmised.
"The pattern of the game wasn't the pattern that we set out, either as management or as players. It just didn't happen the way we would have liked it to happen. So again we have to sit down and ask ourselves why."
SCORERS - Meath: B McMahon 1-2, M Newman 0-4 (3fs), C O'Sullivan, B Menton 0-2 each, B Brennan, T O'Reilly, J Conlon 0-1 each. Offaly: N McNamee 0-6 (4fs), E Carroll, P Cunningham, B Allen (1f) 0-2 each, N Darby, S Horan 0-1 each.
MEATH - A Colgan 6; S Lavin 6, C McGill 6, S Gallagher 7; J McEntee 6, D Keogan 7, G McCoy 7; B Menton 7, S McEntee 5; C O'Sullivan 6, B McMahon 8, B Brennan 5; B Dardis 5, M Newman 6, T O'Reilly 5. Subs: A Flanagan 6 for S McEntee (h-t), J Conlon 6 for Dardis (42), G Reilly 6 for O'Reilly (50), S Tobin 5 for Brennan (52), E Lynch 6 for J Entee (53), P Harnan 6 for Newman (75).
OFFALY - P Dunican 5; D Hogan 6, E Rigney 5, D Dempsey 6; C Donohoe 7, J Moloney 6, N Darby 7; E Carroll 7, P Cunningham 7; S Horan 6, A Sullivan 5, C Mangan 5; B Allen 6, N McNamee 7, R McNamee 6. Subs: S Tierney 5 for Sullivan (55), J O'Connor 6 for Horan (59 inj), P McConway 6 for Carroll (65), M Abbott 6 for R McNamee (66), C Carroll for Cunningham (72).
REF - M McNally (Monaghan)