Graham Reilly: Meath ‘miles off’ Dublin

For a side with ambitions of taking down the number one team in Ireland, Graham Reilly accepted that struggling against the joint worst team in the country isn’t a great start for Meath.

Graham Reilly: Meath ‘miles off’ Dublin

In fact, if Meath and Dublin were to contest a fourth consecutive Leinster final in the morning, Reilly admitted the Royal County would be “kicked out of Croke Park”, based on current form.

The experienced half-forward gave the frank assessment in the wake of Meath’s mere four-point win over a Wicklow side that finished at the foot of Division 4 in the Allianz league.

The 25-year-old wing-forward can be cut some slack as his 1-4 haul, all from play, was crucial in what proved to be a surprisingly tight game.

But even he had to accept that having spoken beforehand about Meath’s desire to reel in Dublin, they may very well now be underdogs to even beat Westmeath in the semi-finals on Sunday week.

Asked about the bigger picture of challenging back-to-back Allianz League champions Dublin, Reilly could only shake his head.

“Based on that performance, we’re miles off Dublin,” he said. “Our passing wasn’t crisp enough, our work rate wasn’t good enough. I thought our tempo was okay and we were trying to do the right things but we’ve got to get ball to hand more often.

“Defensively, we’ve got to set up better. Wicklow were running through the middle of us at times. If Dublin run through the middle of us — if we do manage to get to a Leinster final — we’re going to get kicked out of Croke Park again.”

Meath were missing key players against the battling Garden County because of injury. Bryan Menton and last year’s captain Kevin Reilly were only fit to come on but should be in the shake up for starting spots Sunday week. Mickey Newman and Conor McGill are expected back too though Conor Gillespie and Shane O’Rourke remain 50-50.

As a result of the injury list, Meath started six debutants against Wicklow and with four in defence alone they struggled at the back and conceded 3-12.

Reilly refused to hide beyond the treatment table queue and maintained Westmeath are genuine favourites now to reach the final at Meath’s expense.

“I think Westmeath will go in as favourites,” said the St Colmcille’s club man. “They’re after beating Wexford fairly comprehensively so they’re moving well. They beat Louth as well.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for us. I know we beat them in the O’Byrne Cup and the league. But Westmeath are going to be mad to beat Meath at Croke Park, no better day for them to do it.”

Meath return to training tonight and Reilly predicted they’ll be put through the ringer by boss Mick O’Dowd.

“Our intensity has to go through the roof from here on in - and it will,” insisted the former All Star nominee.

“Mick will make sure that it does. A lot of the senior players like myself need to step up now and to make sure that the intensity in training is at its max.”

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