McEntee bids to channel Royals’ frustrations

The suspicion throughout Andy McEntee’s three-season reign as Meath manager is that he’s always been just one big win from turning things around.

McEntee bids to channel Royals’ frustrations

The suspicion throughout Andy McEntee’s three-season reign as Meath manager is that he’s always been just one big win from turning things around.

He almost got it in the 2017 Championship when Meath ran Donegal to within a point in Navan, and they took Tyrone to extra-time there last year.

On Saturday evening in Ballybofey, they were four points ahead of Donegal in the final quarter of their Division 2 Allianz League game and on the cusp of beating an actual superpower.

They didn’t score again though and conceded 1-3 as Donegal stole the win and top spot in the division.

“I think from a pure footballing perspective, Saturday night’s performance was a different type of thing,” said McEntee.

“Tyrone in Navan last year was gutsy and it was energetic and all of those things. Saturday night was a lot more controlled I thought.

"We dominated the game for large periods and we just couldn’t finish it. A lack of concentration and a couple of bad decisions and the game goes against you like that.

“Frustrating is probably the word alright, yeah, it is frustrating but it’s frustrating for everybody, for the players themselves. They were definitely hurting on Saturday night.

“But we talked about it afterwards, we said ultimately it’s a defeat but it wasn’t a non-performance like what we had against Cavan last year or the non-performance we had against Tipp or Cork, it was a good performance.

The result didn’t go our way but it was the type of performance you’d like from the players.

The setback hasn’t ruined Meath’s promotion prospects but it has focused minds and they must beat Armagh on Sunday if they’re to retain hopes of a belated return to Division 1.

After that, they’ll play Cork at Páirc Uí Chaoimh though it remains to be seen if that game goes ahead there, given the playing surface issues.

“These things are out of our control,” said McEntee of the pitch situation. “The pitch yesterday certainly looked like it was struggling.

"It’s well publicised the trouble around the finances and what not with Páirc Uí Chaoimh, I’m not going to get into that but when you spend so much money on a project and when the key part of it, or one of the key elements of it, is in very poor nick, it’s disappointing.”

McEntee was speaking in Navan at a GAA promotion ahead of Sunday’s tie there with Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh.

It was in Navan last June that Meath were suckered by a late Tyrone equaliser in the qualifiers with Mickey Harte’s side going on to win after extra-time.

McEntee reacted angrily to referee Paddy Neilan at the conclusion of that game and admitted yesterday he handled the situation poorly.

“Yeah, I regret it,” he said. “Did it help the players? No. I’d like to think I wouldn’t do it again.”

An emotional McEntee said in his post-match interview there were no guarantees he’d be back for 2019.

“It took me a while to come out of hiding,” he smiled yesterday. “Walking away isn’t the answer either.

“I suppose given how emotional I was afterwards ... it wasn’t my finest hour. If we’re trying to improve, I’ve got to start with myself.”

McEntee admitted the ‘pressure’ is on now to beat Armagh this weekend and to reignite their promotion bid.

“Armagh are going well, you could certainly make a case that they should be sitting on full points at this stage, having played away to Kildare and against Clare,” he said.

“Kieran McGeeney is as ambitious as he’s always been and they won’t be taking any backwards steps. It’s going to be a huge test for both teams.”

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