Them being friends and all, Seamus Kenny can take the proverbial out of Meath’s prodigal son Joe Sheridan.
“I think people have gone on longer stags,” laughs the captain about his team-mate who lasted only a month in Boston before being convinced to answer his county’s call.
Sheridan’s return has brought some much-needed levity to a Meath camp low in esteem after their demotion to Division 3 last month.
John Evans’ introduction as coach has also helped to raise spirits but more about him and Sheridan anon.
Now for some rhetoric.
Kenny knows there’s a job to do in Carlow tomorrow. It’s been 15 weeks since Meath last enjoyed a competitive victory. Wicklow will be among their peers in next year’s league.
Their pride has been fairly dented but the Simonstown Gaels man offers a rousing rallying call.
“If you can’t get motivated putting on a Meath jersey I don’t think you deserve one in the first place. If you can’t motivate yourself you can’t rely on someone else to. Myself and the other lads will give it lock, stock and see where that gets us. If we’ve nothing to offer then we’re not worth the jersey, to be quite honest with you.”
Do they have a point to prove? You bet they do.
“Everybody knows how the league went for us,” sighs Kenny. “We’ve drawn a line in the sand on that but we have definitely points to prove to ourselves and the team as much as anyone else.
“We know we’re far better than what we’ve shown recently and that’s as much motivation as anything else at the moment.
“The first round of the Championship is what you look forward to six or seven months out. Of course, we’re very motivated.”
As the county board attempted to oust Seamus McEnaney in the wake of the league, Kenny and his team-mates met on a couple of occasions to discuss their position. In the end, they kept their counsel.
It’s not something he wants to get into — football, not politics, is his priority now. He was sure glad to get away from it for a while.
As he explains: “The way things went, we went back to our clubs for three weeks and that brought it’s own bit of freshness to the set-up when we did come back in. It probably buried a lot of the ghosts that were hanging around a week or two after the league. It did bring things together a bit and refocused us and brought a bit of freshness which was a help.”
Kenny won’t deny they’re still smarting from it but he doesn’t want to get too distracted by it.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was anger. You can’t afford to bring too much emotion into it because you lose sight of what you want to get out of it. I definitely say focus is something we’ve got out of it over the last few weeks.”
Sheridan, named at full-forward tomorrow, will give Meath a real focal point in the forward line, although Kenny dismisses the idea that he will be the primary attacking outlet for the team.
“He’s a unique character in that he’s a big target man but he’s also a very effective footballer. He’s a great lad to have around.
“We’re down so many experienced lads from the last few years with Nigel, Benny and Anthony retiring and Shane O’Rourke and Mark Ward effectively ruled out for the year and Cormac McGuinness struggling for the next couple of months. With Joe in the full-forward line, he’s a go-to man. I wouldn’t like to think that’s going to be our out-and-out tactic. I don’t think you can only resort to that but he does give you that option.”
As for their new coach Evans, Kenny can see why McEnaney introduced him. “He’s a character. He’s every bit the Kerryman you would have heard about. He’s been honest. He’s brought different aspects of coaching to training and all the lads have responded to him. He’s good craic to have around.”
Meath are the bookies’ favourites but not in Kenny’s mind. He insists he is not playing the poor mouth and points to the form guide.
“They are the form team and have shown the form that we haven’t. They won a league final in Croke Park. Their tails are up, there’s no doubt about it. They are coming to Dr Cullen Park full of confidence and they sense blood. We’ll probably go into the game as underdogs. Wicklow have earned the right to be favourites for the game because they have put the performances together over the last couple of months.”
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