When Seamus McEnaney resigned from the hot seat of Meath football last August, Mick O’Dowd had a gut reaction.
This was a post he had long desired and now that the opportunity presented itself, O’Dowd didn’t need second telling.
“Somewhere inside me, I knew that some time I’d like to manage Meath, I’d like to manage my own club and I’m not really ever going to be someone that’ll manage anyone other than my club or my county.
“That’s just the way I would be, so when Meath needed a manager I kind of decided I wanted to go for it.”
O’Dowd, along with his backroom team of Trevor Giles, Colm Brady and Sean Kelly, encountered a difficult start to the season when losing heavily in two of their opening three league games. Criticism rang from all quarters and in a county where the long grass is forever occupied, the knives were already being sharpened.
“When you come into a set-up and you are bringing change and are making decisions on key leaders who have been carrying injury for a while and you decide to keep them back with a view to having them later in the season you are going to have downs and it won’t be all plain sailing.”
Rough waters, however, were safely navigated and the Royals now find themselves on the doorstep of provincial glory, though O’Dowd understands a marked improvement is required if the reigning champions are to be toppled.
“I think our players are quite focused and they understand that improvement individually and collectively is what we are looking for and that’s what we have been looking for since we came in.
“They are quite focused on getting more and more out of themselves in each game. Going in against Dublin in a Leinster final, everyone knows a big improvement is required.”
The Royals boss was on the bench when Graham Geraghty fisted in between Davy Byrne and Paddy Christie to deliver Meath the Delaney Cup in 2001, a victory that is to the forefront of his thoughts this week.
“They were great days and gave me the love of the game that I have and they are probably the reason I’m doing this. I’m very proud of where I’m from and you’d be inspired by those days. No doubt some of the current crop were inspired by the 1990s.”
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