It’s the unspoken fear among conservative Meath supporters this week, that their team could be mowed down in Sunday’s Leinster final, leaving their summer in ruins.
No team has managed to bounce back from a Leinster final defeat to Dublin this decade with a win in their subsequent Round 4 qualifier game.
It’s a deeply concerning trend from Meath’s perspective which suggests that preparing to play Dublin in a major final, and then losing heavily to Jim Gavin’s men, takes a huge toll.
Meath experienced that scenario themselves in 2012, 2013 and 2014, losing Leinster finals to Dublin each of those summers and then losing their next game in the qualifiers.
“You could look at it that way but it’s not the way we’re looking at it,” said Meath manager Andy McEntee when asked how a whitewash could affect them. “We’re trying to put up the best performance we possibly can. Let’s see where that takes us.
On any given day, you’re going to win or lose. If we can perform while showing some of the qualities we’d associate with Meath football, I think that will be enough to encourage us whatever the result is. Our season won’t be determined by the result on Sunday.
Yet McEntee was quick to insist that Meath are capable of pulling off a win for the ages at Croke Park to go the direct route to the Super 8.
He said that will require ‘a performance at a different level to what we’ve produced to date’ but reckons it’s possible despite Dublin’s perfect 20 for 20 record in Leinster games so far under Jim Gavin.
“I do, I absolutely do think that,” said McEntee. “I have great faith in them. I think if you look at the first 15 minutes against Donegal in the league final on the same stage, and if you look at what Donegal did against Tyrone in Ulster, their pedigree has stood up. If we can produce a performance like what we did there, over a prolonged period, we’re giving ourselves a chance.”
Dublin beat Meath by three, seven and 16-point margins in those previous three Leinster finals this decade and, in total, the Sky Blues have cruised through their 20 Leinster games under Gavin since 2013 with a combined 330 points to spare.
It’s why bookmakers have installed Meath as 16/1 long shots to repeat their 2010 provincial win over the Dubs.
McEntee acknowledged his team has had a tendency to switch off for periods during games this term and knows that can’t happen again if they’re to make history.
“You could even see with Dublin against Kildare, when the game was well and truly over they just kept hammering and hammering and hammering,” said the former All-Ireland winning club boss with Ballyboden St Enda’s.
“That’s a credit to them and a measure of their hunger and desire. That’s something we’ve just got to match and put up the best performance we can.
It might sound a bit boring and a bit repetitive but we’re looking for the best performance we’ve put up in the year to date and anything we’ve done over the last number of years.
Meath haven’t played a Division 1 team so far in this year’s league or championship though do have an enviable nine wins from the 11 games played in that period.
They secured promotion to Division 1 of the league and Sunday will be their first Leinster final in five years, all indicators that a once mighty county is trending in a positive direction again.
McEntee puts it down partly to the minors of 2012, whom he managed to Leinster and All-Ireland final appearances against Dublin, maturing and coming good as seniors.
“I think they set a decent template to follow, and it’s starting to come through now,” he said. “You can see over the last few years we’ve been successful at U-17, U-18 and U-20 level. Reasonably successful without landing any national title.
“And you’re starting to see that with the quality of players coming through, the likes of Ethan Devine and Darragh Campion and fellas like that. You know they have the work done. So the investment is starting to show, I think.”