It’s with an assuredness that Kevin Reilly now speaks of Meath football.
That wasn’t always the case. Whether it was controversial provincial title-winning goals or a manager defying a county board in remaining, before Mick O’Dowd the county teetered from one crisis to another.
The drama that so defined Meath football in recent years has been replaced by a low-key conviction.
“I’ve always said being involved you see a different dynamic,” remarks Reilly. “I’ve always said stability is key. We’ve hit some highs, we’ve got to two All-Ireland semi-finals and won a Leinster under a previous manager and they were doing a lot right too.
“Unfortunately, when the lows came and they moved or were moved on, it lacked stability. That’s key for any team to evolve. They need time and a bit of stability. I think we have that now, all pointing in the right direction.”
Some of the optimism the captain propagates has to do with an improvement in his own situation: this, he reckons, is his first of 10 seasons where he’s completed a full National League campaign.
A knock to the knee meant his preparations for Sunday’s Leinster final haven’t been completely smooth but there’s little else to complain about.
Meath’s brand of football has been picking up a lot of plaudits. Reilly acknowledges that but is more concerned about what it translates to and the efforts put in by the players.
“We are playing a nice brand of football and it seems to be working. For years we had the potential to win any game but the next game we might go out and be beaten. We just weren’t consistent and I think consistency is key for further progress. As long as we are getting results, I’m happy. It seems to be a selfless brand of football, which is very important. Lads are willing to give their best for the greater good.”
A second Leinster medal would be much welcomed if only were it to be done without the drama of four years ago: “That would be great, that would be what we’re hoping for.”
Although, there’s part of him that wonders why so much was made of Joe Sheridan’s goal against Louth in the context of other dubious refereeing calls. “They’re not easily obtained so I’m going to say I do cherish it and it’s the only Leinster medal I have and I’m going to hold onto it! We’ve put a serious amount of effort into that Leinster championship.
“Okay, there is a little bit of a cloud in the manner (that we won it) but these things, these incidents happen nearly every couple of games in GAA. I’m not saying it’s right. In the (All-Ireland) semi-final of the same year between Kildare and Down, Benny Coulter scored a goal that shouldn’t have been allowed and it was forgotten about an hour or two afterwards. I think a lot of fuss was made about it (the Sheridan goal) and at the time the way it happened it was very dramatic but you just have to get on with it.”
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