DAVID BRAY has made his playing return in Meath colours after missing all of last summer with a cruciate ligament injury.
The younger brother of former All Star Stephen appeared during Saturday's SF challenge against Ulster club champions Crossmaglen.
"I got about 10 minutes towards the end of the game," Bray told the Evening Herald. "It was just nice to get back into it. Nothing major -- more to just get the feel for it again."
The Navan O'Mahony's clubman won't be in the frame when the Royals launch their NFL Division Two campaign away to Laois next Saturday, but he's hoping to be back in contention towards the end of next month.
"At this stage I'm looking at the second or third league match, to try and start pushing back," he said.
Bray burst into the Meath starting 15 during the 2009 season, but last year was almost a complete write-off after he tore his cruciate ligament during a National League Division Two clash with Tipperary in mid-March.
The full extent of the injury wasn't diagnosed until April, at which point Bray was told he would require reconstructive knee surgery.
His rehabilitation suffered a slight setback in November when he tore a hamstring, but he recently resumed contact training ahead of Saturday's on-field comeback in Crossmaglen.
"Trying to stay injury-free from here on is the big thing," added Bray, whose brother Stephen -- currently on his honeymoon -- is due to rejoin the Meath panel towards the end of March.
Meath won Saturday's run-out against the Armagh kingpins by a point, using a different squad to the panel that would play Dublin later that night in the O'Byrne Shield final at Parnell Park.
Davy Dalton, who played 30 minutes against Cross before appearing as an extra-time substitute against the Dubs, was the only player to feature in both games.
Dublin prevailed in extra-time but, afterwards, Seamus McEnaney was delighted with his extended day's work.
"We used 23 players tonight; Meath used 20 players earlier on in the day. That's 45 players at the end of January -- for me, Meath had a great day's football," the Royals' boss said.
"Our biggest focus, from the first of January, has been the first round of the National League," McEnaney added. "This is a big match in Portlaoise -- very difficult opposition, it's a very difficult Division Two and we're under no illusions."
Asked if it will be difficult to finalise a league squad, 'Banty' replied: "No, we will pull together, in our opinion the best 35 players that's there at the moment, who are showing the commitment and spirit and what we are looking for.
"There'll be fellas who will be very disappointed and who will lose out, but the door will always be open -- and that door will be open to fellas to be let go and for fellas to come in.
"We've looked at 65 or 70 players. Liam (Harnan) is managing the U21s and he has looked at another 60, so I don't think we have left much for chance.
"I've no doubt that there's a decent group of players in Meath.
"It's about getting the best of them into this group and maximising that potential when we have them in there," McEnaney concluded.