A frustrating four-year term dogged by injuries to key players which left his team unable to compete with Dublin, the yardstick against which all Meath teams must be judged, was brought to an unremarkable end by Derry in Owenbeg.
O’Dowd was sincere and dignified afterwards as he took aim at his detractors.
“I’ve just invested my heart and soul in the job because I love Meath so much, as a volunteer,” he said.
“I don’t think people realise the work that goes into it.
“There’s a bit of a culture within the GAA now where you have these overpaid, inflated egos acting as pundits that are just ripping decent people in the GAA apart.”
When it was put to him that Meath had more than its fair share of former players with newspaper columns, he replied: “yeah, there are some, but I’m talking about in general and it seems to be a culture that’s taking over”.
“Maybe it’s society. There’s a lack of respect for people, for their work and their effort. But that’s nothing I can change.”
Meath led all the way until Derry sub Niall Loughlin’s 68th minute goal, but having only scored 0-3 after the break, it was the latest in a series of second-half no-shows by the Royals.
Yet O’Dowd is optimistic about the future, insisting that this team “is not that far off”.
“It’s not an excuse or anything, but this group has had no luck.
“Going into this year’s championship again without Conor Magill, Brian Power, and James McEntee, you’d wonder is there someone looking down on you, taking out the fellas you’d invested time in.
“It was the same last year and the year before.
“We’d good momentum in 2013 and we felt it was moving along the right tracks, but now it’s nearly a new team again in such a short period of time. I do think it’ll be a team that will be there for the next five, six, seven years. I’d be positive (about the future).
It’s an exceptional Dublin team that’s there in Leinster, but they’re not going to be there forever. We just need to keep raising our standards.”
After coming off the back of a 10-point Leinster semi-final defeat by Jim Gavin’s men, Meath were bright and energetic in the first half, scoring the opening four points before Mark Lynch got Derry on the board after 16 minutes.
Mickey Newman got on the end of Graham Reilly’s shot into a crowded square for a 26th minute Meath goal, but they should have been out of sight by half-time.
They led 1-8 to 0-4 at the break, Reilly with two from play, but they missed two other good goal chances and were made to regret those as disorganised Derry came out for the second period a transformed side.
The hosts banged in six points in the first nine minutes of the half, Lynch, Christopher Bradley, James Kielt, and Eoghan Brown all on target.
Meath were rocked with Chrissy McKaigue and Enda Lynn bringing Derry within a point and then they lost the stabilising influence of fullback Donal Keogan, who was forced off with concussion.
Four minutes later, Niall Loughlin’s dummy took his marker and goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke out of the play for the winning goal.
It was part of an unanswered 1-3 from Derry in the final 12 minutes, who finished with 14 men because they were unable to replace the black-carded Conor McAtamney.
M Lynch 0-6 (2f), J Kielt 0-4 (3f), N Loughlin (1-0), C McKaigue, E Lynn, C Bradley, E Brown 0-1 each.
M Newman 1-4 (3f), G Reilly 0-2, C O’Sullivan 0-2 (2f), M Burke, P Harnan 0-1 each, A Tormey 0-1 (f).
T Mallon; G McKinless, C McKaigue, K McKaigue; C McFaul, B Rogers, C Mullan; C McAtamney, N Holly; D Heavron, C Bradley, E Brown; J Kielt, E McGuckin, M Lynch.
N Toner for McGuckin (28), N Loughlin for Brown (46), E Bradley for Holly (46), E Lynn for C Bradley (53), N Forrester for Rogers (BC, 62), L McGoldrick for Mullan (63).
P O’Rourke; S Lavin, D Keogan, M Burke; D Tobin, D Smyth, A Douglas; P Harnan, H Rooney; C O’Brien, G Reilly, C O’Sullivan; B McMahon, D Lenihan, M Newman.
E Wallace for McMahon (42), D McDonagh for Newman (52), A Tormey for Lenihan (60), S Tobin for Keogan (63).
Paddy Neilan (Roscommon