One of the GAA’s chief selling points in this heavily-marketed age is that its stars live amongst us.
They fix our cars or sell us insurance during the week and then fulfil our dreams on the pitch come a summer weekend.
It is hard to argue with it but there is a flip side and that falls when the local team’s fortunes take a dip.
At times like that, a GAA player’s proximity to his own people can be more of a curse than a blessing.
Take Meath at the moment.
Seamus McEnaney may have copped most of the flak for the county’s demotion to the third tier of the Allianz League but the players haven’t been spared the whispers and disgruntlement before and since that dispiriting round seven defeat at home to Louth. Throw in the boardroom farce surrounding the failed coup against ‘Banty’ and it came as a surprise to see some Meath footballers raise their heads for yesterday’s Leinster Championship media launch. Among them was Jamie Queeney.
“People don’t seem to understand the work we all have to go through,” he said. “We all have jobs and we all go training five or six nights a week since January. It is unfair but that is the game we are in and we have to put up with it. We are thick-skinned and we will get on with it.”
Other teams have approached the championship in worse shape but not many and the hope now must be that the Royals can somehow make use of all the grief and gripes by fostering the sort of siege mentality that sometimes turns ill-fortune on its head.
“It’s not a hope, we know that will bond us,” said Queeney, whose cheekbone was broken in two places back in January, an injury that required the insertion of two metal plates and even a protective mask for a spell.
“We can even see it at training, we are sticking together. We know everything that went wrong and things have been said about us.
“We hadn’t a good league and fair enough, but as players, we just need to hold up our hands and say we need to perform better.
“We had a few meetings and decided we would all knuckle down for the championship.”
Joe Sheridan’s return from the USA and back into the senior panel late last month has been another positive in their countdown to Leinster.
The Seneschalstown clubman’s brief stint in Boston was quickly forgotten after he scored two of Meath’s four goals in an 18-point challenge match win against an experimental Westmeath XV in Boardsmill on Bank Holiday Monday.
“Joe is Joe. He loves a goal,” said Queeney with a laugh. “It’s good to have him back. We welcome any player into the panel, especially one of Joe’s calibre. He is a good character to have in the dressing-room. People have to leave for different reasons and no-one held it against him. No-one said ‘why are you leaving us now’. One player isn’t going to win you a championship or lose you a league. It’s just good to have him back.”
Sheridan isn’t the only familiar face to find the lure of championship hard to resist as June approaches. Reports from Offaly suggest that 36-year old Ciarán McManus may reconsider his decision to end his inter-county career last November.
Interim boss Tom Coffey has managed to persuade others such as Niall Smith, Richie Dalton and Ross Brady back after relegation to Division Four and the departure of Gerry Cooney as bainisteoir.
“Macky’s doing exams at the minute,” goalkeeper Alan Mulhall revealed yesterday in Dublin.
“I think he’s trying to get them out of the way and then he’s to make a decision about whether he’ll come back in or not.”
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