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Geraghty: Meath have 'lost a bit' of their footballing identity

The Meath legend has been impressed with Galway’s switch to attacking football.

Geraghty at the announcement of Allianz's renewal of the five-year extension of its sponsorship of the Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues.
Geraghty at the announcement of Allianz's renewal of the five-year extension of its sponsorship of the Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues.
Image: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

BACK IN SEPTEMBER 2001, Meath were on the receiving end of a nine-point beating by a swashbuckling Galway team in the All-Ireland final. 

Padraic Joyce scored ten points that day, nine of them arriving in the second-half, as the Tribesmen became the first team to lift the Sam Maguire after losing a game in the championship.

Almost 19 years on and Joyce is in the nascent stages of his managerial career. In the space of a few months, he has quickly lifted the spirits of football supporters in the county. 

Galway have a new identity and are returning to their footballing DNA. Most of the squad grew up admiring John O’Mahony’s team that won All-Irelands in ’98 and ’01, with Joyce, Michael Donnellan and Jarlath Fallon to the fore.

Now Joyce has the team playing in his image – that familiar stylish method of football with a modern twist.

They travel to Navan to face winless Meath in Division 1 on Sunday, hoping to continue their run of good form.

Royals legend Graham Geraghty, who was on the losing side in the ’01 final, believes other teams can learn from Galway’s move away from the defensive system they employed in recent years.

“They are playing some fantastic football and players are there to express themselves but I suppose that comes down to the manager,” he said.

“Padraic Joyce was an attacking, flamboyant player and one of the best of his era. You’ve seen that kind of brush off on the team, how they play and the way they’re able to express themselves and allowed to get forward.

padraig-joyce-and-darren-fay Joyce is tackled by Darren Fay in the 2001 all-Ierland ifnal. Source: INPHO

“Forwards are forwards and they are there for a reason. To see them playing wing-back or dropping back into corner-back, it gets the blood boiling sometimes.

“But for me, Galway are playing very attractive football and at the minute you would say they would be up there as contenders if they can keep developing their style and bring their game forward. But it’s a long way until the end of August now at the minute. 

“I hate harking back on it but the defensive systems have kind of ruined football,” he continued.

“They’re developing, they’re kicking the ball more. They’ve players up front a lot more. They’re a class side to see. But you see the club system in Galway as well, that’s the way they play attacking football.

“You know, teams are nearly afraid to go out and attack in case they are getting caught on the counter-attack. If you’ve got players in their half somebody has to mark them, they can’t be left there on their own so I think it’s something teams have to look at.

“At the end of the day, I think they are going to have to develop a system to beat Dublin, Kerry and the teams that are up there.”

The Royals side for their last appearance on All-Ireland final day was filled with steely competitors: Darren Fay, Cormac Murphy, Trevor Giles, Ollie Murphy, Nigel Crawford and Geraghty among them. 

“We came off the back of a very good underage system. We won a minor in 1990 and another one in ’92, an U21 All-Ireland in ’93 so we had that batch of players coming through to a Meath team coming to the end of that era.

“The likes of Colm O’Rourke, (Robbie) O’Malley, (Bernard) Flynn, all those guys that had won All-Irelands in ’87 and ’88.

trevor-giles Trevor Giles of Meath during the national anthem in the 2001 All-Ireland final. Source: INPHO

“For us to come onto the teams that was still competitive and to have the experience of playing with those players, it was massive. We had that winning mentality.

“You could look at Dublin now, in a couple of games they played this year they were beaten and still grinded out a result. That’s what we had, the winning mentality.

“Success breeds success and when you’re not having it, it’s very hard just to get across the line and break the duck. 

“Meath have some brilliant players. Donal Keogan is probably one of the best footballers in the country just that he’s not getting the breaks he needs. We have a lot of good players but we haven’t that marquee forward we need at the minute.

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“We just need to keep at it and try develop young players over what’s left of the league and the next couple of seasons to try get back up and be competitive again. We’re probably a long way off the top five or six teams in the country.”

He believes Meath football has lost some of its identity over the years since, though some of that may be down to the reduced physicality in the game. 

“Going back when I was playing, compared to now, we’ve lost a bit. But teams developed, the game developed. Rules changed. It’s very hard to play the football that we played, because it was more physical then.

“Nowadays they can’t nearly touch a player and they’re going down. Players are getting red cards and black cards.

“When we were playing, if you were going through and a fella hit you a shoulder he stopped you and that was it. You can’t do that now.

“I think it has probably ruined the game a small bit really because if you hit a fella a good shoulder and knocked him over you’re nearly in fear of being sent-off or black carded.

“They’re trying to improve the game and speed it up a bit but I don’t think some of the rule changes have improved it.” 

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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