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Tuesday 23 October 2018

Royals v Rebels - time for anger

WHEN WE WERE KINGS: Cork’s Jimmy Kerrigan has his goal effort blocked by Meath’s Mick Lyons in the 1987 All-Ireland SFC final. Pic: Ray McManus/Sportsfile.
WHEN WE WERE KINGS: Cork’s Jimmy Kerrigan has his goal effort blocked by Meath’s Mick Lyons in the 1987 All-Ireland SFC final. Pic: Ray McManus/Sportsfile.

The Royals and the Rebels were due to collide in Páirc Tailteann tomorrow until ... well, until the world went mad. And maybe a week's postponement is no bad thing for Andy McEntee and Ronan McCarthy as they seek to make sense of the latest malaise to beset their counties.

You see, once upon a time, Meath and Cork were the kings of Gaelic football. They were the Dublin and Mayo of their day, contesting the 1987 All-Ireland final, the '88 decider (and replay), and the '90 final too.

Gerry McEntee, current selector and brother of Meath manager Andy, was a midfield mainstay of that team. The counties had a September reunion in '99; McCarthy played corner-back for the losers.

Of those four All-Ireland years, Meath triumphed in three of them.

Snowball

Fast-forward to March 2018 and, if you'll forgive the timely meteorological metaphor, there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that either will make it to September.

Moreover, as things stand, their hopes of top-flight elevation are dwindling fast.

At the outset, it looked a relatively poor-quality Division 2, surely enhancing the promotion prospects for two of football's recently faded aristocracy.

Already, Meath may have already blown their chance. Of course they could win their last three ties (starting with Cork at home next weekend) and that would bring them to nine points - in theory enough to go up.

But that same tally was achieved in three of the last four seasons; and each time they finished third.

More pointedly, would you trust this team to win three on the spin? This observer saw them in Kingspan Breffni, a fortnight ago, and they were played off the park by Cavan. That five-point defeat was followed by an eight-point thrashing in Thurles; a late Bryan Menton goal couldn't paper over the cracks of a result that leaves Meath in seventh place, mired in relegation trouble.

It's a moot point whether Cork have been any better: they have earned one more point (four) but back-to-back wins over Down and Louth have been sandwiched by deflating home losses against Tipp and Cavan. Even that seven-point win over Louth didn't convince McCarthy, the year-one boss describing it as "a very poor, disjointed performance - particularly in the second half".

After their most recent defeats, both managers uttered similar sentiments. "Very disappointed," said McEntee. "I'm not angry, it was disappointing," echoed McCarthy.

Maybe anger is what is needed ... before supporter resignation and apathy take over, and our faltering duo keep on falling.

 

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