Midfield is an obsession for me. If you look at our loses over the years losing the midfield battle is a common theme. Cork 07 Kildare 10 Westmeath 15 . All those games v Monaghan in the league in 13 14, I think. The game would turn when the opposition would win / clean us out in midfield and win all the breaking ball. If we can sort out our half back line and midfield , we are back. I'm very certain of that.
The problem is we have lost potentially 3 top class midfielders eg Nash O Rourke and Gillespie. Gillespie is a massive loss. We won the midfield battle v Dublin in 13. Dominated Dublin at midfield in the first half and where 2 ahead at half time. We should have been 8 or 9 ahead. We missed goal chances. That was the last game in leinster a leinster team really gave Dublin a headache. Meade and Gillespie were at the centre of midfield.
We have only beaten 1 Ulster team in Ulster recently eg Down in 2016 or 2015. Gillespie was at the centre of midfield. Menton was wing back. And both had great games. Gillespie totally dominated the midfield sector and we won by 7 points. One of O Dowds best wins. I think Gillespie could have became one of the best if not the best midfielder in the country. He reminded me so much of Dara O Se. So his loss coupled with Nash and O Rourke have been massive.
I know what your saying about pace and atleticism. But the last time we made impact was in 09 and 10 when we had a big powerful team. We did lack pace though. In the two years 2010 and 2011 we defeated in the championship Offaly by 10 points Laois by 10 points Louth by 11 points Dublin by 10 points and coming up to half time v Kildare in 2010 we were 7 points up before we were hit for 2 late goals. The fallout from 2010 final fiasco basically finished of the 07 to 10 team , which had huge potential. In 09 we played Dublin and Kerry and we were dreadful in both games but still only lost by a couple of points. We had good forwards eg Two Brays Geragty O Rourke Reilly Bryne Farrell Sheridan Ward and big men around the centre Crawford Ward Moyles Kevin Reilly. We did lack pace though.
We have pace in recent years. But for some reason we produce smaller players. It means when Meath players go into the tackle they are easily tackled and possession is easily given up. Dublin have the perfect mix eg players built like tanks, but full of pace. We need to get the right mix.
Last year we had Menton and Jones v Feehily in the kildare game. Feehily won hands down. Menton is talented footballer. He is our Graham Canty in that he is so versatile. He can play any position from 2 to 10. He could be a top class number 7 wing back. But actually his best position could be full back. I think he could be become a brillant full back. But he would be wasted in there. And we already have McGill in at full back. A player who has replaced Kevin Reilly very well.
Menton is atletic. He brings that to midfield. And under Gerry McEntees tutorship last year, I thought he matured and developed into an effective midfielder. Jones is a good prospect. The cameos against Louth in the last 15 mins and 5 mins v Sligo before the injury, he looked a classy footballer full of Atleticism. But both against Feehily, a traditional midfielder were not able to stop him dominating. We lack a traditional midfielder. That is what Rooney is. I think if we played Kildare and if Rooney was match fit. Feehilys influence would be curbed.
Alot of people say that to me about Rooneys pace or lack off. And against Dublin in 2016 it was evident he was struggling against the pace of Dublin in the middle. And he has yet to have man of the match performances for Meath. But for me long with Flanagan are they the only two natural midfielders, basically good high fielders, we have.
He has aggression also which we need. He is 24 and most midfielders come of age around 27 or 28. ( Exceptions of course were Jack O Se Sean Cavangh and Brian Fenton). For example John McDermott came on the Meath panel in 91. But it was not till end of 96 people started to recognise his greatness. Up to the Tyrone game in 96 people were saying we had a weak midfield.
Also I remeber we played Dublin in Byrne cup in Navan under O Dowd. Dublin had alot of their best players on show. Dean Rock was playing . Yet we went toe with Dublin and they pulled away in the dying minutes. One of the reasons was Rooney had an outstanding game at midfield and almost singlehandedly drove us on. It was like McDermont or McEntee or Hayes in their prime. We need Rooney back. And over the next few years if he can develop into a quality midfielder it would be a massive boost. A Rooney/ Menton partnership would have a good balance to it. A Rooney /Flanagan partnership would be more traditional, but it could work. Because I think in the midfield battle there is going to be change in the next few seasons.
We have never really adapted to the changes in football in the last 16 years. Neither have Down or Galway eg Sweepers blanket defences. But 1 major problem has been tactics at midfield. Under Sean Boylan Meath didn't do tactics. Meaths football was based on 2 words , organised chaos. Every man fight for the ball like his life depended on it. Kick and catch. Long balls into forward line. Where forwards like Geraghty and O Rourke would fight tooth and nail for the ball. You cannot just kick the ball into full forword line anymore.
Our midfield tactics under Boylan was the goalkeeper drove straight out to the center . Where you had McEntee McDermont and Hayes in the middle. So this was not a problem. Every manager since Boylan has continued this policy . It's hasn't worked. Tactics are now part and parcel of midfield play. Only under Banty when he had Paul Grimley as coach did I think we had more of a kickout strategy and we had a breaking ball strategy.
Under Boylan breaking ball tactic was based on two players. Kevin Foley and Paddy Reynolds jnr. The amount of ball those two men won was unreal. The last player I think we had that was good at breaking ball was Seamus Kenny.
Anyway Tyrone in the 00s had tactics with breaking ball. While Dublin brought tactics to a new level with Cluxtons kickout strategy. No other player has had as much an influence as Cluxton. He is not a goalkeeper, he is a football quater back.
I think there is a seachange coming in the future years. The mark and kickouts past the 20 metre line rule will change everything. Teams will have to go long more . This means having high fielders at centre field will be essential. I can see even Dublin having problems. Against Mayo they went long in the first half in the final last year. Mayo dominated. They went short in the second half. They didn't lose a kickout. This new rule will mean we will see more long kickouts. That's where players like Flanagan and Rooney will be strong.
Overall I am positive. But it will take time . I can see this year being up and down. More progress next year. But in year 4 and 5 We will then make an impact on the championship. This is a long process. But we need to be patient. If you look at past examples to the situation we are in at the moment, it is not an overnight sucess. If Andy could gain promotion this year would be great. But it's far from a certainty. It took Kevin Walsh 3 years to get Galway promoted. It could be similar for us.
But things can change very quickly. And as a county we have a remarkable ability to retransform ourselves, come from nowhere and knock Dublin from their perch and become the dominate force in leinster football and follow up with All Ireland sucess. That seems like a pipedream now, foolish talk. But we were in worst positions in the spring of 1947 1964 1975 1986. And weren't in a great position in 96. We know what happened next. Every generation of Dublin players go up a level . Are seen as unbeatable. And every generation of Meath players knocks them from their perch. Some might say this is history. But I would rather have this history and tradition, then not have it . But for me it's not our tradition that makes me confident. It's our future players. When I saw our 17s winning leinster this year v Dublin . And our minors hammering Dublin last year and this year's minor tearing Dublin to pieces in the first half. For me that showed me, we still got it. As my uncle used to say long ago, we are the only ones in leinster that can beat those Dublin [email protected]#$$$ers. He is right. Meath for Sam 2021.
Furlong1949 (Meath) - Posts: 311 - 26/01/2018 22:59:15