Andy McEntee has expressed dismay at how former Meath goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke portrayed the county set-up earlier this year.
O’Rourke, who left the panel at the end of last season, penned a blog detailing his frustration with the demands placed on inter-county “which had gone through the roof”.
He wrote about how his head was “melted” by the amount of work required and, in coming to his decision to step away, realised “this is not worth it”.
The Skryne man claimed his life is much better, adding: “There is the huge upside of not being tied down to the Meath schedule for at least five days per week. I no longer wake up thinking about what I need to get through the next 16 or 17 hours.”
McEntee took exception to the perception he gave of the current Meath group. “I think everyone was disappointed with what Paddy had to say. It wasn’t just players from Meath, it was players from all around the county and the country were disappointed with that sort of attitude. That’s the attitude I think is being cultivated out there.”
Not just O’Rourke but ex-footballers, he feels, are partly to blame for creating an erroneous image of what it’s like to be in a panel now.
"There is huge negativity out there. There is too much talk about it, too much talk in the media and from former players about the demands of modern day inter-county football.
“If you want to play sport, your particular sport, at the highest level you’ve to put in the hours. John Coghlan is our physical trainer and he has an athletics background and he’ll tell you a good club athlete trains eight or nine times a week. So if you want to get to the highest level of your sport you have to put in the effort and the hours.
McEntee continued: “They are getting well looked after with regards to expenses and facilities so there are a lot of plusses out there that weren’t there 20 years ago.”
But, to paraphrase what O’Rourke said, is it worth it?
“That’s the same in every sport. If only the guys who have a chance of winning compete in every sport you are limiting yourself to very small numbers. It’s very easy for someone to say ‘What’s the point in doing all this, Dublin are too good’ but where’s the challenge in that?
“If you only play because you are guaranteed winning then that’s not sport...
“And I hear former players from numerous counties including our own basically saying it is a waste if time, Dublin are going to win. I find that very disappointing.”
There have been times when McEntee himself hasn’t enjoyed his time as manager but he remain. “I have my ups and my downs. Unfortunately, there were a few more downs in the league.”
It’s with a wry smile he offers speaking of how they just about avoided relegation from Division 2 and then a similar kind of humour when he’s asked if Meath are close to where he imagined them to be 18 or so months into his reign.
As they finally face Westmeath in this weekend’s multi-postponed O’Byrne Cup final, McEntee says: “I thought we’d be All-Ireland champions and Division 1 champions at this stage. No, we are not where we’d like to be.
“Certain things we have made progress on, the level of preparation from the players, the level of fitness and strength, we have definitely made progress but we are still struggling to get that level of consistency on the day.”
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