In the last piece done before this website’s original incarnation was closed for re-development, I expressed my upset at how awkward it had become for me to attend matches in Croke Park. Regrettably, such is the case even though the return of rail services to Dunboyne should’ve negated any difficulties in that regard.
However, as anyone who read the piece produced after Meath lost to Donegal in the NFL Div. 2 Final will know, the ineptitude and incompetence of Irish Rail not only ruined the occasion in question, but also put yours truly off making a return journey to GAA HQ any time soon.
Now, at this point it must be admitted that to some extent, expeditions to Jones’s Road were at the very least curtailed a long time ago. Primarily due to the reality that Dublin games generally end up on the same bill as ours. And no, misgivings about travelling are not down to jealousy or bitterness on my part. Purely a case of not being able to negotiate the crowds when the blue artillery tank marauds into town.
For all that though, it was nice to be back in there, in one way at least. Indeed, as was said to somebody in the build-up to the Meath-Laois game that we have been back in the big field twice this season already is the best indicator of all that things are going the right way. In this case the numbers do add up!
It’s hardly a secret at this stage that I don’t get to as many Meath games as was once the norm. Therefore, it was a big thrill for me to be able to attend the Offaly match in Pairc Tailteann last month. Not only that, but also to be able to take in most of the hurlers’ Christy Ring Cup joust against London.
As has been said on numerous occasions, if all hurling was ground hurling, there’d be absolutely no bother keeping up with fare. Trying to follow airborne sliotars from this seat, though, is akin to attempting to spot white blackbirds.
Be that as it may, however, the improvements the county team have made in recent years is (a) very obvious and (b) continuing. Even with limited vision it also clear that in Shane McGann and Jack Regan team manager Nick Fitzgerald has at his disposal two players who would grace any team in the country. Hopefully they and their colleagues get the reward their efforts deserve in the upcoming final against Down.
There’s no escaping the fact that Meath’s display against the Faithful County wasn’t one of their best. In fact, it was a fixture they were very lucky to emerge intact from. What was encouraging, mind you, was the manner in which, with backs appearing to be collectively to the wall, they did dig in and carve out a result. Having already done so in league games against Armagh and Kildare earlier in the season.
Which leads me nicely to the next day. At the time of typing it’s only three days after the Laois game and I’m already sick of people telling me we’ve no chance. I absolutely know the magnitude of what’s ahead. Dublin under Jim Gavin are the most potent force Gaelic football has ever seen.
One trend that has – somewhat worryingly – emerged during games has been that our lads fading out for periods therein. It would easily have been catastrophic against John Maughan’s men and even though they recovered from similar slips against Carlow and Laois to win comprehensively in both instances it surely goes without saying that any slackness displayed in the next game is likely to be rebuffed in a much more ruthless fashion.
Before anyone talks about Micko and Heffo or even Sean Boylan, in the case of the first pair they had each other’s teams for competition while in Sean’s time with Meath there were – at the very least – Dublin and Cork teams of similar strength with whom to engage in many memorable encounters.
Whereas nowadays you wonder what, if any, meaningful competition there is for Dublin. Gut feeling is this seat is that the most noteworthy form of such may emanate from Donegal. Which, to use a bit of horse racing parlance, on a line of form, underlines the progress Meath have incrementally made in recent times.
Even more fundamentally than that though, nothing is impossible. Nothing. Remember the 1975 NFL Final. Or the 1986 Leinster Final. Or – to a lesser degree – the 1996 version. Think, if you like, either, of York City defeating Manchester United in a Cup game or, even more recently, Ireland defeating both England and The Netherlands – with Michael Van Gerwen in tow – at the World Cup in Darts.
Look, logic suggests that things will only go one way. But the thing about something like a Meath-Dublin game is that logic very often goes out the window. Or at least it used to, and that’s the hope that will be clung to before the next chapter in the GAA’s greatest never-ending story takes place.
It feels like there’s something a bit special about this Meath team. If the season was to end this minute it would have to be considered a successful one for them. The hope and instinct is, however, that it has a bit to run yet.