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Saturday 18 November 2017

Reilly's Royal revival can continue with hard lesson for DCU students

AHEAD of last weekend's derby date with Louth, Meath boss Seamus McEnaney admitted he was on the look-out for some attacking speedsters to supplement his well stocked arsenal of powerfully-built, often prolific but not exactly lightning-fast forwards.

In the words of Banty: "Pace kills -- particularly if you haven't got it."

In the event, what Sunday suggested is that McEnaney needn't look too far for a forward who brings speed and dynamism to the table, with the finishing acumen to boot.

His name is Graham Reilly.

It should be recalled that 2010 -- the season before Meath appointed their first 'outside' manager -- showcased the best of Reilly.

The St Colmcille's man established himself in the Meath half-forward line that season and went on to enjoy a high-scoring summer campaign, culminating in nominations for an All Star and Young Footballer of the Year.

Last year, though, neither McEnaney nor Meath supporters saw the best of Reilly.

Injury may have played a part -- he underwent a groin operation last spring -- although he had recovered sufficiently by April to deliver a four-point 'Man of the Match' performance in a thrilling draw with Tyrone.

That result helped the Royals preserve their Allianz National Football League Division Two status despite a horrible string of earlier morale-sapping results in their campaign.

But any renewed optimism proved relatively shortlived, as Meath's topsy-turvy SFC campaign started and ended with defeats by Kildare.

Reilly was replaced in three of their four matches, coming off the bench in the other (against Galway).

It is against this backdrop that Reilly's tour de force against Louth last Sunday -- and subsequent comments from his manager -- should be viewed.

True, the resistance offered by Louth's motley mix of experienced regulars and callow fringe players was negligible ... but Reilly was still the best forward on view by a country mile.

The debit column may include three wides -- one unluckily via an upright -- but five excellent points from play more than compensated.

Moreover, his ability to drive at pace (and often through tackles) from centre-forward offered early-season encouragement that Reilly could be about to rediscover those 2010 heights.

"Graham stuck rigidly to his (fitness) plan while we weren't together and he has trained exceptionally well for the last couple of weeks," McEnaney said afterward last Sunday's display.

"We'd be hoping that you would see a different Graham Reilly in 2012 than we saw in 2011 -- and we need to."

Suffice to say, while Graham Geraghty's appearance off the bench garnered most of the Páirc Tailteann headlines last Monday, Reilly's 'second coming' could yet offer greater long-term significance.

Maybe we'll have a better idea after tonight's semi-final meeting with DCU under the Navan lights.



Bully

McEnaney has yet to announce his starting line-up, so it remains to be seen if any of the high-profile quartet due back at training this week (Joe Sheridan, Cian Ward, Seamus Kenny and Kevin Reilly) will be ready for any game-time. "Unless fellas come in on Tuesday night and play exceptionally well, they will get it hard to bully fellas out of places," the manager cautioned after last Sunday's facile six-point win over the Wee County.

The Glasnevin students -- with All Star Paul Flynn potentially making his first start since Dublin's All-Ireland SFC final triumph -- should provide a far sterner test than Louth, even though they've endured a few fraught moments in their earlier wins over Wicklow and Longford. The display of Dublin U21 Gary Sweeney could also be worth watching as he attempts to force his way into Pat Gilroy's plans but it's Meath to prevail as the students' focus is more on the Sigerson Cup.

ODDS: Meath 8/11, Draw 7/1, DCU 6/4

VERDICT: Meath

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