Wednesday 22 November 2017

A right Royal mess

McEnaney sees new faces come up short against DCU

SATURDAY night in Navan was a wholly disappointing evening for Seamus McEnaney. We know this because he used the word 'disappointing' nine times in his post-match media address, just so there could be no misinterpretation.

"Poor performance," he announced, somberly. "Very poor performance tonight. Very disappointing.

"We know alright that DCU are only three weeks away from a championship and they're in serious shape but from Meath's point of view, very disappointing performance. To score three points with the breeze in the first half was very disappointing."

That sort of thing.

It wasn't just the 2-8 to 0-6 home soil defeat to DCU and the opportunity lost to get an early-season crack at their perennial torturers, Kildare, which Banty found regrettable, though.

Collectively, the performance was inept and lacking cohesion. Individually, Meath's players were meek and disinterested but there are reasons, if not excuses, for such prosaic symptoms.

No, McEnaney's disappointment in the preparation for Meath's opening league clash with his native Monaghan in two weeks' time will spawn from the fact that the O'Byrne Cup was a largely unproductive exercise.


The band of newcomers which populated his team sheet, particularly in attack, failed to announce themselves as credible alternatives to the established order.

A total of six points on Saturday night said just about everything about the lack of ingenuity, craft and confidence of those attempting to dislodge the status quo.

And those who played on Saturday night seemed ill at ease with how the ball was being moved towards them. It's a quirk of matches in Páirc Tailteann that the stringing together of more than three handpasses in Meath's half-back line prompts palpable and audible angst from the natives who, in turn, vocally give the order to 'let it in'.

Against DCU, the Royals were too ponderous to put together moves from deep and when they conformed to tradition and 'let it in' they were effectively leaving their scoring chances down to luck.

Certainly, McEnaney's search for a couple of pacey forwards as a refreshing counterpoint to the big, sweet-striking men he possesses in abundance goes unrequited for another season.

And physically, Meath were just blown out of the water by an understandably fresher, sharper team.

"The last couple of weeks, we would have felt we would have won the physical stakes," the manager noted.

"It was disappointing and a lot of it has to do with the frame of mind more so than the frame. It's certainly something we will be looking at over the next couple of weeks."

The qualifier to all of the above, however, is just how strong DCU are at the moment. On the night, they weren't particularly clinical or impressively fluent, just a good team with good players doing the necessary.

The tone was set by a first-half goal from David Kelly after Dean Rock's long delivery and Eoghan O'Gara's tap down, a score which provided a 1-3 to 0-3 cushion at half-time. And the match was taken well beyond Meath with the Sligo sniper's second midway through the second-half after a comedy of handling errors.

Kelly was a constant, lurking menace and with O'Gara circling with his typically unpredictable air, he got plenty of time and space to work his charm.

Colm Begley was another to make a lasting impression, kicking a free and two points from play in an all-action performance from midfield.

At the back, everything Philly McMahon did was laced with class, both on the backfoot and in possession, but the most influential player on the night was Dublin's All-Ireland U21 winning captain, Johnny Cooper, at centre-back.

Besides keeping Graham Reilly scoreless from play, his smart reading of the game and cool head extinguished Royal sparks and his frequent runs forward always concluded with a pass which found the right player in a better position.

"No excuse, a very disappointing performance," concluded McEnaney."

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