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Saturday 16 December 2017

Young Meath side show their mettle

An altercation breaks out between Gary White, Kildare, and Meath players, from left, Mickey Burke, goalkeeper Patrick O'Rourke, and Conor McGill, during the first half. Allianz Football League, Division 2, Round 2, Meath v Kildare. Páirc Táilteann, Navan, Co. Meath
An altercation breaks out between Gary White, Kildare, and Meath players, from left, Mickey Burke, goalkeeper Patrick O'Rourke, and Conor McGill, during the first half. Allianz Football League, Division 2, Round 2, Meath v Kildare. Páirc Táilteann, Navan, Co. Meath

Meath have beaten Kildare in their last two championship meetings so essentially this 0-13 to 0-11 NFL Division 2 win shouldn’t be something to get too worked up about.

Meath boss Mick O’Dowd was still keen to impress that it was “only two points”. But the mechanics of it felt a little different this time. His team had found themselves four points down (0-9 to 0-5) and struggling early in the second half.

Kildare were dictating the pace and deciding by what numbers and in what areas of the field it should be played. Such trench warfare has not been Meath’s preferred battleground in the past. 

Any manager will see willingness of spirit as the most important fundamental of a team and, for the final half-hour here, O’Dowd saw it manifest in spades. They didn’t so much play their way out of trouble as fight their way out of it, step by step, inch by inch, for a hugely important win.

“They are so young. We need to bring them through this period. You can’t inject that experience into them,” he reflected.

No one pressed their shoulder to the wheel more forcefully than wing-forward Andrew Tormey. He was everywhere, back in defence making interceptions and big tackles and charging forward to score three points on the run, the last of which gave Meath clear daylight at the end.

He also took over free-taking duties from a misfiring Mickey Newman, slotting an important one on 60 minutes to draw Meath level, 0-10 each, having trailed from the 19th minute. His contribution was all the more significant as Graham Reilly was black-carded, somewhat harshly, for a split-second-late collision with Keith Cribbin after nine minutes.

Jason Ryan will be disappointed to have let another lead slip but the circumstances were different from the smash-and-grab raid they suffered to Down six days earlier.

They were highly efficient with their attacking play in the opening half as they opened a 0-7 to 0-4 lead but found Meath’s defence, led by captain Donal Keogan, much more uncompromising chasing down that lead.

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