LIKE Mickey Harte a day earlier, Eamonn O’Brien couldn’t hide his frustration with a system that allowed his county to exit the championship courtesy of a side that had been unable to secure a provincial title.
Many a Louth fan will find that a bit rich, no doubt, but the Meath manager’s point is one that many more will share after a weekend in which all the provincial kingpins waved adieu.
"I don’t like to see teams who are beaten coming back through a competition," said O’Brien.
"That’s my view. I know Mickey Harte says that the provincial finalists should get a second bite at the cherry but then if you win there you need a second bite in the semi-final and what about getting a second bite if you get to an All-Ireland final if you haven’t been beaten up to that?
"To my mind, I don’t know how you do it, but you probably need to restructure the provinces because I think only winners should be coming through into an All-Ireland quarter-final. I’m saying that as a principal rather than saying anything about any of the teams that have won this weekend.’’
Whatever the merits of their respective summer paths up to yesterday, O’Brien was handsome in his praise of his opponents and pointed to Alan Smith’s goal in first-half injury-time as the day’s crucial score.
"We played very well in the first-half but, having said that, we conceded two goals and probably should have gone in more ahead at half-time because they weren’t good goals from a defensive point of view,’’ he said.
The championship’s structure apart, there were no other complaints and O’Brien pointed to Meath’s fast start as evidence that they had not been weighed down by the fallout from the Leinster final controversy.
"It was difficult for the players, in fairness, but they went back to their clubs. We prepared them as well as we could. I don’t think it was anything to do with that (controversy). I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know what impact it might or might not have had. I think they were ready for the game. It was just that Kildare were far better on the day, particularly in that second-half."
In the end, it was Meath’s tendency to fall away in the second-half of games that did for their All-Ireland ambitions this summer and they depart the scene now with only a tainted provincial title to their credit.
It is a disappointing conclusion for a side that promised so much but, Anthony Moyles and Nigel Crawford aside, they have youth on their side as O’Brien settles in for a winter of introspection.
"When you lose it is disappointing and I am very disappointed that we are not in an All-Ireland semi-final. We need to look at certain things because I am involved in football to try and win competitions and to win All-Irelands.
"That’s what we are all here for so we have to look at ourselves, see where our shortcomings are and correct them.’’