Injury list a Royal pain for new boss O’Dowd

New Meath manager Mick O’Dowd admits reducing the county’s yawning injury list is his first big challenge.

Injury list a Royal pain for new boss O’Dowd

The Skryne man goes into Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup opener against Longford in Ballymahon without up to 10 players.

Newly-appointed captain Kevin Reilly is among those on the treatment table and Eoghan Harrington will lead the team in his absence.

Alan Forde, Shane McAnarney and Shane O’Rourke are also sidelined while last season’s captain Seamus Kenny resumes full training this month after cruciate surgery following an injury in Meath’s Championship first round game against Wicklow last May.

“We’ve about eight to 10 injuries since we took over. Trying to deal with and get them right for the league is the biggest thing at the moment,” said O’Dowd.

“We’ll be carrying a few injuries for a while but there are lads coming back like Seamus who will be doing full training this month.

“There’s a huge amount of work to be done and I think Meath supporters accept that. Getting over the injuries is a huge challenge in itself and over time we hope to find our best team.’’

There is already plenty of interest in which brand of football O’Dowd will subscribe to after a mixed bag of tactics under predecessor Seamus McEnaney.

“Meath’s traditional style has been pretty direct and it would be that, or a variation of that, which we’re working towards. But you know with the way the game has gone, you can have eight or nine defenders in front of you and sometimes being direct isn’t always the way to go if you’re not quick enough. But ours will close to a traditional style.’’

Division 3 won’t lend itself to anything but pragmatism, though — something not lost on O’Dowd as he has made a quick return to Division 2 a priority.

“Yeah, it’s a goal but it’s the goal of everyone else in Division 3. We’ve four away games, three at home, and the opening two games are away.

“The three games in the O’Byrne Cup will help us a lot as we prepare for February.”

Meath have been taking full advantage of the relaxed winter training ban, staging trial games, the Fitzsimons Cup tournament a few weeks back as well as last Sunday’s challenge with Down, which ended in a draw. “We’ve a couple of lads who can’t play in the O’Byrne Cup as they’re with the colleges so it was a chance for them to line out for the team.”

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