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Sunday 24 September 2017

McEnaney tells Geraghty to push for start

SEAMUS McENANEY has confirmed that Graham Geraghty is in the squad for Sunday's O'Byrne Cup clash with neighbours Louth and is likely to make his first Páirc Tailteann appearance for Meath in over four years.

Now a player/selector in Banty's restructured backroom team, Meath's 1999 All-Ireland-winning captain is primed to see some game time -- most likely from the bench -- prior to the commencement of the Royals' Allianz Division 2 programme, a campaign which McEnaney believes will set the tone for their season.

"Graham Geraghty will be in the 26-man panel for this weekend." McEnaney told the Herald.

"Getting close to the league, he's going to need game time. Will he play this weekend? He's certainly in the hat."

Depending on your county of origin, Geraghty is either an unadulterated hero or 'the Antichrist'.

Neither side, however, differ on his status as a footballing 'genius' but even his apostles in Meath are split on whether he can offer something to the current team at the grand old age of 38 (39 this May).

Last year -- at the request of McEnaney -- he made a dramatic comeback to the Meath fold, a move which is believed to have been at least partly responsible for the resignations of selectors Liam Harnan and Barry Callaghan in May.

Geraghty subsequently returned against Kildare in the Leinster quarter-final -- his first for Meath in three years -- and almost scored a goal with his first touch but for referee Syl Doyle's contentious square-ball call.

The prospect of Geraghty starting for Meath in a competitive match looks remote and McEnaney hinted that he sees the former Arsenal triallist in an 'impact sub' role.

"It's up to himself to play himself into the playing squad or play himself out of it," McEnaney insisted.

"I've always said it's a 20-man game nowadays. And I've no doubt that Graham will push himself to the limit to get into that 20-man team."

Meath began the year on an upnote, beating Wexford by three points in Navan last weekend, and after coming so close to relegation to Division 3 in his first year at the Royal helm, McEnaney is desperate to acquire the winning habit as early as possible this time around.

"You never want to be in that situation again," he admitted.

"I've made no secret of it. From the very first game of the year going back to the tournament we played in October, we want to win every single game this year. That's the approach we're taking."

On the subject of Sunday's opponents, McEnaney is adamant that the acrimony over the 2010 Leinster final has dissipated but welcomes the level of bite a derby will bring so early into the year.

"It is long gone," he insisted. "There was a lot of stuff hanging over us last year from the previous year's Leinster final. But that's long gone now."



TREASURE

McEnaney is currently shorn the services of the brightest jewels in his attacking treasure chest, with Joe Sheridan, Stephen Bray, Cian Ward and Shane O'Rourke all sidelined.

He acknowledges, however, the need to find a different type of forward to supplement the burly, sweet-striking calibre the county has produced in bucketfuls over the last decade.

"Pace kills -- particularly if you haven't got it," McEnaney said.

"So yeah, it would be fair to say I'm looking for a few pacy players."

"There are spots for fellas," he reiterated. "There is absolutely no question about that.

"I have always played players who are in form. Names don't count for anything. Form is the key. And the fellas who started last Sunday ... the established players are going to find it hard to dislodge them."

From last year's squad, only Anthony Moyles and Nigel Crawford have elected to step away and McEnaney's only serious injury doubt is the luckless Kevin Reilly, whose Achilles tendon has become an annual, chronic nuisance. McEnaney is positive, though.

"We're confident that we will have him fully fit for the league," said McEnaney.

"Whether he's ready for the first two games, that's questionable at the moment. But we're confident at the moment that we'll get him right.

"Kevin Reilly is one of the best full-backs in Ireland and it's very important that we get him fit.

"There are positives and negatives of the training ban. The positive from Kevin's situation is, the break has given him two months rest. He went into complete rehabilitation when he came home.

"So this is probably the first time he got a full chance to get fully rehabilitated," he concluded.

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