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Monday 18 December 2017

Royal raider Reilly gives 'outstanding' display as captain leads the way

Meath 0-27 Louth 3-9

Meath’s Graham Reilly tries to race away from Louth’s John Bingham during yesterday’s Leinster SFC clash. SPORTSFILE
Meath’s Graham Reilly tries to race away from Louth’s John Bingham during yesterday’s Leinster SFC clash. SPORTSFILE

Meath captain Graham Reilly delivered a tour de force in Parnell Park as Andy McEntee got his championship management career off to a winning start with a Leinster quarter-final win over Louth.

Reilly's pace and accuracy was too much for Louth to handle as he added five points to the two he scored before half-time to ease Meath concerns during a troubled period after the break.

After so many disappointing second half fade-outs in recent championship matches Meath powered their way to a strong finish, outscoring their opponents by 0-14 to 1-0 from the 48th minute on to accumulate one of the highest points tallies in championship history.

"We did finish strong and that doesn't surprise me, the guys have done an awful lot of work with John Coghlan (strength and conditioning coach)," said McEntee.

"I've sung his praises for long enough at this stage. I have no doubt the fellas have a lot more in their tanks still, they probably could have gone on for a little bit longer if they'd had to."

McEntee described the performance of his captain as "outstanding" adding that was what he was capable of.

"Once he's in the proper condition, he's a handful for anybody. He took a couple of scores when maybe we could have worked a goal but he did the right thing.

"We needed a score at those times, needed a reaction to nearly every one of their goals and more often than not it was him that provided them."

Weaknesses

Meath could have had five goals, four in the first half alone but, in a very open match, Louth could have capitalised further on Meath defensive weaknesses with Paddy O'Rourke making saves in either half from Páraic Smith and substitute Ronan Holcroft.

But Holcroft and O'Rourke were the central characters in a bizarre goal just after half-time when the Meath goalkeeper miscued a short kick-out into Holcroft's grasp.

Holcroft advanced, kicked poorly for a point but O'Rourke appeared to have lost his bearings and was standing to one side of his goals as the ball trickled over the line.

It gave Louth a lifeline against a strengthening wind and they were energised by a further Conal McKeever goal in the 58th minute.

But the gulf in class was something Louth manager Colin Kelly acknowledged afterwards.

"They have quality players. They had a bit too much for us today. We gave everything we have it wasn't good enough but I thought the gulf was obvious."

Both sides lost players to black cards in the opening half, Meath's Conor McGill and Kevin Carr while Jim McEneaney converted a penalty just before the break for Louth to trail 0-10 to 1-6.

Meath will be pleased with the impact of Dunboyne newcomers Ronan Jones, Donal Lenihan and Shane McEntee while last year's Christy Ring Cup winning captain James Toher made an impact after being a late call up for James McEntee who withdrew after the warm up with a hip injury.

But Kelly felt there were precious few positives to draw on.

"Sometimes we have to question ourselves, I have to question myself as a manager, and players have to take a long hard look at themselves as well.

"Why does this happen? Maybe, you know, are you good enough?"

Matchfile

Scorers - Meath: G Reilly 0-7, D Lenihan 0-6 (3f, 1 '45'), J Toher (3f) 0-5, B McMahon, T O'Reilly, R O Coileain 0-2 each, S Tobin, R Jones, C O'Sullivan 0-1 each. Louth: J McEnaney 1-2 (0-1f), R Holcroft, C McKeever 1-0 each, J Califf 0-3 (1f), R Burns 0-2 (2f), A Williams, B Duffy 0-1 each.

Meath: P O'Rourke; M Burke, C McGill, D Tobin; P Harnan, D Keogan, S McEntee; B Menton, R Jones; J Toher, C O'Sullivan, E Wallace; G Reilly, B McMahon, D Lenihan. Subs: D McQuillan for McGill (BC, 30), R O Coileain for S McEntee (52),C O'Brien for Menton inj (55), T O'Reilly for McMahon (59), S Tobin for O'Sullivan (69).

Louth: C Lynch; P Rath, P Reilly, K Carr; L Dullaghan, J Bingham, D Byrne;T Durnin, J Stewart; A Williams, P Smith, B Duffy; J McEnaney, E O'Connor, R Burns. Subs: K Murphy for Rath inj (19), A McDonnell for Byrne (26), R Holcroft for Carr (BC, 29), C McKeever for Dullaghan (ht), J Califf for Durnin (41), R Moore for Smith (69).

Ref: B Cassidy (Derry).

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