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Banty backs brave Royals to bounce back in time for Laois

YOU certainly can't accuse Banty of lacking passion.

Yesterday, when he came into the media room under the Hogan Stand after his Meath team were denied a Leinster title by Dublin, he stretched out his arms to the sides, planted them on the table in front of him and almost unprompted, issued a battle cry to the players in the adjoining dressing-room.

"There's a myth out there about the six-day turnaround," he said of the prospect in front of Meath - Laois in a week - before raising his voice.

"But I can tell you that we're going to test it. There's serious spirit in that dressing-room, there's character in it and we are going to fight. I can tell you one thing - we are going to fight tooth and nail to get back here in two weeks' time. Take that from me.

"We will fight. Anyone who wants to travel to our game next weekend - you will get some fight from Meath to be back here in two weeks' time."

The man who nearly won an Ulster title with Monaghan can now add the Delaney Cup to his book of near misses, although the narrowness of the final margin was probably more reflective of Dublin's late lethargy than the Royals performance.

"The two minutes from the 35th minute to the 37th minute was a critical blow to us," he shrugged. "But we promised ourselves at half-time that we'd fight tooth and nail for each other until the end.

"I'm immensely proud of the Meath players. They did fight tooth and nail to the very end and even had an opportunity to draw the game at the very end."

McEnaney singled out Donal Keoghan for special praise after an inspired performance at corner-back, but he was one of the few Meath young guns who fired on the day.

Their rawness, it was put to Banty, possibly undid them in those two fateful minutes before half-time.

"We had possession coming out and Dublin turned us over," he reflected. "Dublin are a very intense team, they tackle very hard, they close you down very quickly and they did turn us over quite often, which was disappointing.

"But I wouldn't be pointing the finger to any one or two mistakes because we had opportunities to close the gap. We could have gone in at half-time a point down or even sides level if the clock had ticked the right way for us.

"That's life. It's a game that, yes, we could have a result in if we had performed better. Or we certainly could have been a lot closer or made it a lot easier on ourselves in the last 15 minutes."

He went on to make a plea to Croke Park to grant his team an extra day to prepare for Laois, but the likelihood is that they will be forced to attempt the six-day turnaround, an attempted feat littered with broken All-Ireland dreams.

"We felt before the Wicklow match that if we took it a game at a time and 10 minutes at a time we could win here today," he insisted. "I had total belief that that would be the case. But unfortunately we came up short.

"The lads have shown real character today. That is a big positive for me. What more can you ask from them? They were beaten by Kildare five times in a row and to come out here a few weeks ago and turn that over. Why can't we turn a six-day turnaround over?"