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Thursday 19 October 2017

O'Dowd insists the Royals won't go all defensive on the basis of one huge defeat

MICK O'Dowd was adamant that Meath would not sacrifice their style when they play Armagh in two weeks time for a spot in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

The Royals' manager said that despite the scale of his team's defeat by Dublin in last Sunday's Leinster final, there would be no rebooting of Meath into more defensively-oriented structure.

"I'd say we probably won't set up like a Northern side with two sweepers," O'Dowd insisted. "It's not our style. We don't play it in our club football in Meath in general.

"We were much more defensive during the League.

"It's easy to look at the tactic and say 'that's what went wrong' but if tackles aren't going in out the field to delay the ball going in - which they were in other games - then it looks like you should have a defensive system and have fellas running back into the defence.

"So I still maintain we're at our best when we're attacking but some of our tackling wasn't good enough."

Still, it is a pertinent statistic that in the last five years, Meath have won just five games from 23 against teams from Ulster. And the cliché which accompanies that statistic is that the Royals are 'too snobby to sweep', and find it difficult to break down teams that do.

This year, they were hammered by 12 points (0-20 to 0-8) by Monaghan on the League's opening day in a defeat which mirrored the severity of their trip to Clones a year previous when both teams were in Division 3.

Deprived

They then drew with Donegal in Ballybofey when Michael Murphy's injury-time free deprived Meath of a rare victory on Ulster soil but a performance from which, according to O'Dowd, the team derived great solace.

They also beat Down in Navan by 1-14 to 1-11 in the League's penultimate round.

More pertinently, Meath were beaten by 0-19 to 2-10 by Armagh when the teams last met in a League match in Navan on the first evening in March.

Then, Jamie Clarke kicked 11 points (seven frees) and O'Dowd fielded 12 of the players who started last Sunday's Leinster final.

"They've obviously come through the back door and had a number of very good wins and won away from home," O'Dowd noted.

"We played them in the League. We'll look at that and we'll look at the games they played recently and just put a plan in place to deal with them."

Asked would it be difficult to motivate his players after such a humbling defeat, O'Dowd responded: "No, I don't think it will be hard at all."

Comparing Meath's plight to that of Dublin after they suffered a 17-point humiliation at 
the hands of Kerry in the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final, O'Dowd said: "Dublin were in this position five years ago against Kerry. So you either sink or swim.

"You either stand up and fight and become better by playing teams like the All-Ireland champions or you just walk away from it.

"And that's one thing we won't be doing."

Recovered

Having recovered impressively from their Ulster semi-final replay defeat by Monaghan, Armagh have now stitched together notable wins in Omagh, against Tyrone, and more recently, Dr Hyde Park, where they were victorious over Roscommon last Saturday.

"It's going to be as tough as people build it up and make it out to be," insisted Meath goalkeeper, Paddy O'Rourke.

"We're already looking to that game. What's done is done, we can't change the past.

"It's all about going forward from here. We'll start building for Armagh from this evening on and we'll continue right from here.

"We can't change the result today, we can't go back and play the game again.

"We can only play what's in front of us," O'Rourke concluded,"and Armagh are what's in front of us.

"Our attention and focus has turned to that game already."

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