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Friday 19 July 2019

McEntee: Clearly we got something right but finale was very damaging

NOT HAPPY: Meath manager Andy McEntee argues with referee Seán Hurson during the Leinster SFC Final yesterday. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
NOT HAPPY: Meath manager Andy McEntee argues with referee Seán Hurson during the Leinster SFC Final yesterday. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Where do you start if you're Andy McEntee?

The Meath manager was emphatic in his pre-Leinster final press that yesterday's game wouldn't "define our year".

But as the rain fell and the unexpectedly plump crowd of 47,027 drained back into the city, it was hard to imagine Meath simply shaking this one off.

The only comfort for McEntee was that he knew precisely where to start.

According to the GAA's official statistics partner, Meath had 19 scoring chances yesterday.

The 0-4 they scored represented a 21% return.

"We needed to be able to put Dublin under pressure and it's fair to say we didn't really manage that at any stage of the game," McEntee reflected.

"We had more shots at goal in the first half than they had, we had 11 they had 9.

"But we had one score on the board at the end of 35 or 36 minutes of play and that says a lot really.

"If you got half of those it would have been a fairly tight game at half-time," he went on.

"Dublin obviously deployed Philly McMahon in a sweeper role and we weren't getting our shots from maybe the best area of the field.

Difficulties

"But there were still a lot of decent efforts."

Meath had three shots come off uprights in the first half.

Ben Brennan missed two frees inside 35 metres.

Graham Reilly, who protested his substitution midway through the second half, clocked four wides on his own.

"I think three frees and we missed three of those and the conditions weren't easy and Dublin were having their own difficulties at the far end too," McEntee said by way of mitigation.

"I don't have any answers straight away but we just didn't get in a position to see could we force them into more mistakes than they usually do."

It's eight years and that infamous All-Ireland semi-final with Donegal since Dublin were constricted to such a low score in a single half of football as they were yesterday in Croke Park.

Unlike Jim McGuinness's team then, Meath went mostly man-to-man yesterday on a slippery day better suited to defenders than forwards.

So when McEntee said: "clearly we were doing something right", he clearly had a point.

With 20 minutes to go yesterday - and for all their crippling wastefulness - Meath were still within six points of Dublin.

They finished in two completely different gears.

"It's something that we've talked about before," McEntee acknowledged.

"We've got to get up to that level.

Absorb

"They have so many players at that physical level that if you take one off you bring another on, everybody knows the strength of their panel.

"Those last 10 to 15 minutes were very damaging to us."

He meant it in the context of the game and the final score but that closing period of the match has the potential to be very damaging indeed for Meath.

They have already achieved two stated seasonal goals in promotion from Division 2 and yesterday's Leinster SFC final appearance.

As McEntee referenced, they are still just a win away from a spot in this year's Super 8s but if their capacity rides largely on the draw for who they play in the qualifiers, it is mostly dependent on how Meath absorb such a chastening afternoon.

"I don't know is the answer," shrugged McEntee in reference to a question about what happens next.

React

"We haven't been in this position before. It'll be interesting to see how fellas react.

"We were one game away from the Super 8s last week, we're one game away from it this week.

"Ultimately not a whole pile has changed.

"It will be a fair test of resolve and a fair test of character to come back from a defeat like that."

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