O’Dowd made the comment following suggestions by pundit McHugh that young Royal players have been softened by the excesses of the Celtic Tiger.
As far back as 2013, McHugh stated that Meath had been ‘gone a while’ from football’s elite group of teams and he repeated his criticism after their recent narrow championship win over Division 4 side Wicklow.
McHugh said he’d be ‘very fearful’ for Meath and suggested, “Maybe the players are not coming through, maybe through the Celtic Tiger they had it too good.”
“Do I have any response? Not really,” said O’Dowd. “It’s kind of irrelevant old stuff. He’s probably a bit of a one-trick analyst himself, isn’t he, to coin a phrase he used himself.
“Look, these things are for those fellas to come out with and for supporters (to debate). We don’t really dwell on it, we don’t have the time to dwell on it.”
One young Meath player who clearly isn’t soft is rising star midfielder Harry Rooney. The hulking 21-year old was man of the match against Wicklow with a powerhouse display on his full debut.
He’ll most likely be a marked man next weekend when a Meath side aiming to qualify for a fourth Leinster final in a row take on Westmeath at Croke Park.
“He actually lives at the top of my road,” said O’Dowd, a Skryne club mate of Rooney’s. “I managed him since U16 and at minor with the club. He is a great lad and a great prospect.
“To give such a performance on his debut was a credit to him. But it was no real surprise to me.
“He has all the attributes to make it at this level. He was with the minors and the U21s for the last three years so he has a good bit behind him.
“He was a bit unfortunate that he played the first two rounds of this year’s league and then missed the next five games. But he came back strong and showed it against Wicklow.
“There are various types of inter-county midfielders on the go at the moment. Harry slots closer to the traditional one. He is a very powerful runner, he has good mobility and great strength. His game will keep developing and he will only get better.” O’Dowd hopes to have Kevin Reilly, Bryan Menton, Conor McGill and Mickey Newman available for selection after injuries.