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Sunday 19 May 2019

Fit-again Newman relishing chance to make up for lost time with Royals

Return: Mickey Newman. Photo: Sportsfile
Return: Mickey Newman. Photo: Sportsfile

It wasn't the sort of day for trumpeting their ability to coax a victory back from the precipice of nauseating defeat but Mickey Newman was one of the many people in Páirc Tailteann on Sunday who concluded that Meath had demonstrated lessons learned in their eventual victory over Offaly.

"Over the last two or three years, we would have lost a lot of those games where a team got a run on us and scored four or five points," Meath's totemic freetaker stressed.

"It just shows how much we have progressed, despite it being a bad performance. Over 10 or 12 minutes or whatever it was, we managed to reel them in and showed a bit of cuteness keeping the ball there at the end.

"In other years, definitely, we wouldn't have been able to do that."

"Getting over the line in some of these games is massive as well, winning a couple of them tight games," he mused, "that just breeds confidence and reinforces that what you're doing is the right thing."

Still, the feeing of anticlimax was difficult to ignore.

Both Newman and Andy McEntee came into the media room under the stand in Navan wearing expressions more customarily seen on the faces of those who have lost the preceding game.

"Obviously," Newman explained, "because we had such a good league and everything is looking up, that was a flat performance".

Comfortably

"It was a massive build-up and there was a lot put into this.

"People were probably expecting us to beat Offaly quite comfortably but as you saw last night, the league doesn't really mean anything once the first round of the Championship comes around.

"We did probably have to cope with a lot of that build-up."

This time last year, Newman wasn't even part of Meath's Championship panel.

Having battled and toiled with a number of nagging and curtailing injuries, he decided to opt out to concentrate fully on regaining full fitness.

"I've had a lot of injuries over the years and I'd just had enough of it really, being in rehab all the time," he explained.

"I gave myself every chance when I wasn't in (with Meath last year), I was in the gym, building myself up.

"Once I got the pre-season over me and I could stay on the pitch, I'm very happy where I am."

The process was arduous and, Newman admits, mentally draining.

"I was well used to it but ask anyone that suffers a good bit with injuries and they'll tell you it can be quite tough at times.

"But it's a long season and there's always opportunities that arise so I just have to stay patient with it."

He is slow to call it a last roll of the dice but it's hard to label his efforts as anything else.

"I'm 28 nowm" he states.

"It's not a career nowadays that you're in until you're 35 or 36. It was time to kick on."

Quite what the summer holds for Meath now seems increasingly uncertain in the context of last Sunday's under-performance against a team that struggled not to be relegated to Division 4 in March.

As Newman acknowledged "it's a very quiet dressing-room in there,"

"Naturally enough when you're setting targets and you're trying to set standards (you want to reach them).

"So we'll sit down during the week and look at what we did right and what we did wrong.

"It will be no different to any of the league games. We'll just take what we can and get prepped for Carlow."

Hushed talk

If nothing else, the nature of Meath's has at least hushed talk of them strolling easily into a Leinster final.

With both Dublin and Kildare on the other side of the draw and Meath new finally established as a Division 1 county, such loose chat was as unavoidable as it is unhelpful.

"You're going to hear it, there's no way of hiding from it," Newman pointed out.

"But you just have to keep your side of the bargain, you need to do your work.

"You can't get distracted by those things. Offaly had trained just as hard as us and were sitting there ready to roll us over, like Longford did last year.

"Carlow will be the exact same so until you're in a Leinster final, or until you've earned it, then you're not there.

"It's just about fulfilling our side of the bargain."

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