Battle royal lies ahead

ACCORDING to Marty Morrissey, the cherubic umpire will be 21 next week. After yesterday’s controversy, he should be guaranteed a crowd without even having to resend the Facebook invites.

Maybe Joe Sheridan and Graham Geraghty will tip on down to Wexford to liven up the gig. Joe has been attending every other bash these past few weeks, one more won’t kill him.

He wasn’t invited in to give evidence to the stewards’ inquiry pursuant to Geraghty’s fisted goal at Croke Park yesterday, but he gatecrashed it nonetheless. Joe’s no star witness, alas, and the sight of his mounting rage will have moved very few nationwide, least of all next door in Louth.

If Joe is relatively new to the whole area of failing to generate instinctive sympathy, Geraghty has spent a lifetime poking around its lonely corners, and, after the umpires had crossed the flags, and after the game had moved on, he could still be seen communicating with the officials.

And we don’t think he was asking about the dress code for the party.

As was said over and over again by tip-toeing pundits throughout last week, Geraghty had nothing to prove — nothing to prove to anyone, bedad — but he couldn’t let the occasion pass without displaying that when it comes to controversy, not even a three-year period in the wilderness can dent his peerless reputation.

It was a strange kind of day for the ever-tightening circle of the Meath camp. They were playing to prove their assertions that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, everything was fine and dandy in the camp. Spoh on, no bodder, to quote one of their own.

Their motivation, albeit unarticulated in public, was to ram it down the throats of the large body of critics inside their own borders.

The flames were further fanned by news that Cian Ward wouldn’t start, though, in his case, it seems the ubiquity of his media appearances had caused a severe vocal cord strain. He didn’t even come on as a sub, so it must be a bad case.

In any event, Banty’s actions this past fortnight had brought Meath to the starkest T-junction of all. One sign said Bust. You don’t need me to spell out the other one.

They ended up traipsing off towards Bust, or, to afford it its Daingean Uí Chúis translation, The Qualifiers.

Even if Geraghty’s disallowed goal was a wrong call (and we’re not sure it was), and Brian Farrell’s sending-off appeared a case of splitting hairs, Meath can’t have too many arguments. The disallowed goal would have been a lifeline of sorts, but they were down to scraps at that point, and their attacking efforts had long since shed any semblance of cleverness or penetration.

On the sideline, Banty willed them to greater effort, but, for all their talent up front, they shrunk in stature as the game wore on. Kildare adjusted to life in the shadow of the towering late springer Paddy O’Rourke, and Meath seemed unable to adapt to any alternative avenue other than long, hopeful kicks in on top of whoever happened to be populating the inside line.

And none was Kieran Donaghy. Banty can point to improvements from the last championship meeting with Kildare. But it wasn’t for this Meath compromised a long-held principle, and the pressure to perform will mount in the Qualifiers.

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