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Monday 18 December 2017

Reilly aiming to make mark

Royal captain eager to redress Dubs balance

THE modern, post '90s, version of the Dublin/Meath conflict has, in the words of Royal captain Kevin Reilly "been a little top heavy in my time."

"We have only beaten them once," he points out, referring to the 2010 Leinster semi-final goal blitz.

"We will be doing our absolute best. We are very confident in our own ability, we are trying to prepare as best we can."

There doesn't seem to be an opponent to the argument that Meath are better built for it this year. But that's not to say they'll necessarily do any better.

Dublin haven't loitered on their acclaim in the year since last they met.

"I suppose in our own development," Reilly begins, "we are a year and a half down the line from when Micko took over.

"And this new squad has been built or is in the process of being built.

"A lot of guys have a lot more experience than they did last year. A good few have come through and are playing a Division higher. So we are in a better place."
"Dublin are quite a strong team," he adds for balance. "And they have proven it time and again.

Punish

"They are All-Ireland champions and probably favourites for this year as well but we're going to be doing our absolute best and we'll be doing whatever we can to push them every second of the way."

Remember, Reilly has just the one Leinster medal. And whatever way you look at it, there's an asterix beside Meath's name there, even if Reilly isn't about to hand the thing back

"They don't come along too often," he insists, "and they're not easily obtained so I'm going to say I do cherish it and it's the only Leinster medal that I have and I'm going to hold onto it! I'd hold it very highly.

"We've put a serious amount of effort into that Leinster championship.

"Okay, there is a little bit of a cloud in the manner (that we won it) but these things, these incidents happen nearly every couple of games in GAA.

"I'm not saying it's right. In the (All-Ireland) semi-final of the same year between Kildare and Down, Benny Coulter scored a goal that shouldn't have been allowed and it was forgotten about an hour or two afterwards.

"Okay, the analysis picked it up and pointed it out but after that it was 'we get on with these things'. I think a lot of fuss was made about it and at the time the way it happened it was very dramatic but you just have to get on with it."

Still, they'd probably prefer to win it without so much drama on Sunday?

"That would be great," Reilly smiles. "That would be what we're hoping for."

Having played an entire programme of League matches for the first time ever, Reilly is deriving plenty of satisfaction from his football just now.

"I enjoy the victories," he interjects.

"We are playing a nice brand of football and it seems to be working. We're trying to build a consistency within the squad. For years we had the potential to win any game but the next game we might go out and be beaten.

"We just weren't consistent and I think consistency is key and for further development and progress. As long as we are getting results I' happy. It seems to be a selfless brand of football which is very important.

"It doesn't happen all too often where lads are willing to give their best for the greater good."

Last September 22, less than an hour had passed since the final whistle had sounded on Dublin's 24th All-Ireland title and Jim Gavin was refusing to lower his game face.

Asked a question roughly to the strains of whether his team was young enough and sufficient competent to build what we refer to as a dynasty, the Dublin boss insisted that by virtue of his team having won the All-Ireland, they were already behind the groove for this year's competition.

Seriously.

And one of the teams he mentioned as being already out of the traps was Meath.

"I've always said that stability is key," says Reilly who, having made his debut against Dublin in the 2005 Leinster SFC, has now played under six Meath managers in nine years.

"We've hit some highs, we've got to two All-Ireland semi-finals and won a Leinster under a previous manager and they were doing a lot right too.

"Unfortunately, when the lows came and they moved or were moved on it lacked stability. That's key for any team to evolve from where they are.

"They need a little bit of time and a little bit of stability. I think we have that now."

Both on and off the pitch.

"There has been a dramatic change at committee level in Meath," Reilly points out.

"There has been obviously a change with Micko and his backroom team coming on. Everybody's pointing in the right direction and I think we're moving forward, which is very important."

Because when Seamus McEnaney was manager, every defeat seemed to prompt a crisis and, in turn, another reinvention of the wheel.

Loyal

Partly, that was because, as an outside manager and one attempting to implement a style of play not strictly loyal to the Meath brand, you never got the feeling 'Banty' was there for keeps.

With O'Dowd, he appears to have a very clear view of what Meath need to be in order to achieve success.

And regardless of results or injuries or any other class of setback, they continue along that path, making only progress thus far.

"These opportunities don't come around too often," Reilly adds. "We've been fortunate enough to contest I think three out of four Leinster finals in the last few years but before that we didn't get near, we didn't get close.

"You definitely have to give it absolutely everything you have for as long as you have that opportunity because you don't know when the next one is going to come.

"Yeah, there are quite a few young guys who have plenty more years ahead of them but who's to say they are going to be spent contesting Leinster finals. It just doesn't happen like that.

"You do have to seize the moment."

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