Meath miss jump to the top flight
Results elsewhere conspire to keep Royals in Divison 2
YOU just couldn't escape the feeling of anti-climax in Navan yesterday.
And inevitably, as Meath missed out on promotion despite beating Cavan by 0-14 to 0-12 on the basis of their previous loss to Roscommon, thoughts turned to the night they squandered a seven-point lead over Laois and contrived to draw.
And so another season in a Division 2 replete with five Ulster teams beckons for Mick O'Dowd's side.
"As we said before the game, it would have been a killer if we hadn't done our business and other results had gone our way," O'Dowd pointed out after word that both Down and Roscommon had made safe their respective passages to the top flight with victories.
"We could only control winning the game and it was only in the last five or six minutes that we sorted that part out, but we can't have regrets."
All of which detracted from a good result and a ballsy performance from the Royals yesterday in Páirc Tailteann.
Because historically, they have struggled in direction opposition to teams who play the game the way Cavan do and while you couldn't quite say they have that particular nut cracked on the thin evidence of yesterday, they got on with the laborious task of pinching occasional scores whilst studiously minding their own patch with a great deal more intuition than has hithero been the case.
"You just have to get used to playing against that defensive system and still penetrate and score," O'Dowd pointed out.
"And some of the Division 1 teams can do that. That's the journey we're on ... to break that down and get more scores. I suppose 14 points over the hour isn't too bad."
"We are learning the whole time, but I keep going back to the evolution of this team. The average age of the team today was 23 and they are mad to learn and are working incredibly hard.
"It is a frustrating game to watch at times to be honest for supporters, but that is the way it is."
Vitally, five of those points came in succession between the 60th minute and the end of the game, an unbroken sequence that turned a three-point deficit into a two-point win.
Nothing brilliant or remotely pretty but a little more effective than Cavan, who squandered four goal chances in different but equally spectacular fashions.
The game featured 31 wides, mostly through highly pressurised defending and thus uncomfortably shooting but in Mickey Newman and Shane O'Rourke, Meath possessed the two most natural finishers on the pitch.
And despite their divisional stagnation for another season, O'Dowd was inclined to spin a positive message from Meath's campaign as a whole.
"We had eight players making their first appearances in the National League, five or six of them were out there today," he pointed out.
"We also got players like Kevin Reilly, Shane O'Rourke and Conor Gillespie back from injury so it has been a really good league in loads of ways.
"If you compare it to two years ago when Cavan came to town and destroyed us. There is an evolution to this team that we have to take the good from the league and not have regrets," he concluded.