Murph's Sideline Cut: A Royal fascination

Meath showed a cockiness in their Leinster SFC semi-final win over Kildare, writes Ciaran Murphy.

Meath's Conor Gillespie and Daryl Flynn of Kildare.
Meath's Conor Gillespie and Daryl Flynn of Kildare.
Image: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

FOR SOME REASON passing understanding, I have always been fascinated by Meath.

And having played in the Ardcath floodlit tournament* a number of years ago (one of the top 14 annual floodlit tournaments played in Meath, I’m told) I feel as if I’m better placed than most to talk about them.

Yesterday they gave a performance which quite simply came out of nowhere.  Newstalk covered their first game of the championship against Wicklow in Carlow, and while they played ok that day, and got the win, they looked a million miles from the top teams in the country.

They drew with Carlow on their next day out, and while the replay win was emphatic, it looked like the controversy over Banty’s removal-then-reinstatement meant Meath were limping along towards an early summer exit and a winter of no little discontent.

But Sunday’s victory changes everything, and reinforces a couple of key points about Meath.  For a start, they’re cocky. It will have offended them mortally that Kildare have been beating them recently, and also that the country has been telling them that Kildare will continue to beat them for the foreseeable future. KILDARE!! They never heard the like of it.

And that cockiness means that instead of looking at a performance like that on Sunday and saying “wow, today was a day when it really came together for us”, they’d be more inclined to say that normal service has been resumed.  It’s a brilliant attitude, and even though I wouldn’t fancy being a Meath player with that sort of expectation hanging around, it helps.

It was really interesting to hear Anthony Moyles after the match on Newstalk saying the Meath players wanted Dublin in the Leinster final.  And it wasn’t a platitude, or Anthony saying what he thought would be the right thing – they really DO want the All-Ireland champions. That arrogance again; you have to love it.

They have reason to be bullish this morning though, not least given the performances of Conor Gillespie and Damien Carroll, at centre-field and centre-forward respectively.  The maturity that Carroll, in particular, showed on the ball was hugely impressive, and as everyone seems to be pointing out, the way he had his head up once he got in possession of the ball recalled Trevor Giles in his pomp… which in fairness is not a bad comparison for any young lad to be getting.

Patrolling the sidelines of the nation for the last 2 years has given me a certain affection for various counties, and for some reason or another we always seem to be covering Wexford, so I was really disappointed to see them fail to finish the job against Dublin in the other Leinster semi-final.

They were haunted last year by their failure to convert a really good position in last year’s Leinster final into a win, and the assumption must be that they’ll be haunted by this loss every bit as much, if not more so given they hit 11 second half wides.

But there is an alternative way of looking at it – that for a team playing Division 3 football this year, they have done incredibly well against Dublin, twice in 12 months.  They couldn’t recover from the disappointment of losing that Leinster final in time for the qualifiers last year, when they really should never have lost to what was a pretty poor Limerick team, but if they can regroup they could yet have a productive summer.

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** I should mention that my experiences at the Ardcath floodlit tournament also provided me with a treasure trove of hilarious (and entirely inappropriate) dressing-room anecdotes which have served me well in numerous social occasions over the years.  I would tell you a few, but they are actually all wholly unrepeatable.

This week Murph was...NOT going to mention Seanie Johnston.  But the idea that Seanie playing in a hurling championship match in Kildare for 35 seconds on Saturday had any impact on the game in Croker on Sunday is ridiculous.

If he played that hurling game, then went into the Kildare dressing-room for the first time 24 hours later, then that MIGHT have caused a disruption. But the guy’s been training with them for months.  It might have looked pretty cynical, and it was, but it had nothing to do with Meath’s win. Nothing.

Banty had faith in his young players

‘We played below ourselves and were made pay’ – McGeeney

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