In the build-up to the Leinster final, Meath manager Andy McEntee was adamant that the game and the outcome wouldn’t define their season.
Reaching the Super 8s was always their ambition and they remain just one win away from achieving that, yet with a whole lot more baggage now.
History doesn’t favour Meath either as they attempt to become the first of nine teams this decade to win a final-round qualifier immediately after a Leinster final defeat to Dublin.
Asked again if the Leinster final will define their campaign in the wake of this 16-point shellacking, McEntee shrugged: “I don’t know, I don’t know is the answer. We haven’t been in this position before. It’ll be interesting to see how fellas react. We were one game away from the Super 8s last week, we’re still one game away from it this week. Ultimately, not a whole pile has changed. It will be a fair test of resolve and a fair test of character to come back from a defeat like that.”
McEntee had the haunted look of a soldier returning from war after the Croke Park blitzkrieg. Missed opportunities, he agreed, ultimately cost the team early on when the game was a live contest.
“We had 11 shots on goal in the first-half, if you got half of those it would have been a fairly tight game at half-time,” he said. “Dublin, obviously, deployed Philly McMahon in a sweeper role and we weren’t getting our shots away from maybe the best area of the field but there were still a lot of decent efforts, I think maybe there were three frees and we missed three of those. The conditions weren’t easy either and Dublin were having their own difficulties. That’s it really.
We needed to be able to put Dublin under pressure and it’s fair to say we didn’t really manage that at any stage.
McEntee suggested that referee Sean Hurson didn’t do Meath any favours, displaying six yellow cards and a black card to Royal County players while Dublin escaped unsanctioned.
“Ah but Dublin aren’t physical so it doesn’t matter,” was McEntee’s sarcastic response.
Asked if it was superior fitness or ability that allowed Dublin to dominate the final 20 minutes in particular, McEntee suggested a combination of both.
“Look, it’s something that we’ve talked about before, we’ve got to get up to that level,” he said. “They have so many players at that physical level that if you take one off, you just bring another on. Everybody knows the strength of their panel. Those last 10 to 15 minutes were very damaging to us.”
McEntee wasn’t much in the mood to discuss what the latest landslide Dublin win means for the province.
“Let’s be fair about this, I’m not going to start talking about that now, we’re after getting a bit of a drubbing there so I don’t think it’s the time for me to start pontificating about Leinster football or the state of football,” he said.