Why have Meath improved this year?. McEntee was always going to take years before he cud turn things around. Nally a new coach this year has improved matters. But I think two things have happened that have been the most important. The 2012 All Ireland minor finalist team , players from that team r peaking and players from sucessful underage teams in last 3 years are coming thru. These young players have come in with confidence and talent. But they are the first young Meath players to come through under the new strenght and conditioning and the new underage system in Meath which was put in place 5 years ago. These two groupings coming together have contributed to Meaths improvement.
Meath only sucessful underage team up to recently was the 2012 All Ireland minor finalist. That team was managed by Andy McEntee. It was a good team but in many ways we had to over rely on that team , as it was our only underage sucess up to recent times in this decade. It was a very good team who defeated highly fancied Tyrone and Mayo teams. They were comprehensivly beaten by one of best underage teams in this decade by Dublin 2012 minor team. That Dublin team was the most athletic minor team I have ever seen. They were a huge team where so many of their players looked like senior. In comparison that Meath team had talent but was a small team even by minor standards.
After so many of those minors played for Meath seniors. For example of 2012 minor Meath team all these went on to play senior. For example James McEntee, Shane McEntee, Seamus Lavin, Ruari O Coilean , Adam Flanagan Paddy Kennelly, Harry Rooney , Cillian Sullivan , Robbie Burlingham , Brian Power, Shane Gallagher, Padraig Harnan, Barry Dardis and Fiachra Ward all have played senior football for that Meath team played on 2012 Meath minor. Of the 12 players who played Dublin in 2012 All-Ireland minor final, 12 of the starting 15 played senior for Meath afterwards. That is allot. Probaly we were overeliant on that team. The Meath team that started v Fermanagh on Sunday 6 of the starting 15 played for Meath 2012 minors eg Seamus Lavin Shane Gallagher James's McEntee Shane McEntee Cillian Sullivan and Barry Dardis.
When these Meath players first came on Meath panel they had football ability. But they were small in stature. Meath had a small team up to recently. What has happened Meath were tackled and easily lost possession. This year Meath players with 5 or 6 years strenght and conditioning now are not easily overturned in the tackle. Also the class of 2012 are now 25 and are now peaking as footballers. Footballers peak from age 25 26 to 28. Players like Seamus Lavin Shane McEntee and Barry Dardis have really improved in last 24 months. But 2 players have really gone up a level and they are James's McEntee and Cillian Sullivan. I will talk about them in a second. Meath team are much more physical in the tackle this year. Up to this year we lacked physicality. This is an area of improvement.
The class of 2012 are peaking as footballers. While thw underage class of 2016 2017 2018 are starting to break onto the Meath team. Coming together of both groupings is the foundation of Meaths improvement. Only in the last 5 years Meath have got their act together with strenght and conditioning, Academies and development squads. Campion Devine Ryan Conlon T O Reilly are the first wave of new talented Meath young footballers to come through this process. In the early part of this decade at underage Dublin and kildare teams beat Meath teams comprehensivly. Also Westmeath and longford also were beating Meath at underage. Those players went onto beat Meath at senior.
In the last couple of seasons Meath underage teams r beaten Dublin and kildare regularly. Meath have beaten Dublin 4 times in 4 years at minor level. The only loss v Dublin at minor level in 4 years and Meath were 9 points up half time v Dubs. We are also beating kildare at minor and where only team who defeated their All Ireland winning under 20 team last year in the championship. The good news for Meath is our next two minors are expected to be stronger then this years current Meath minor team who r leinster champions. This should hopefully lead to ( but u never know with young players ) Meath been strong and competitive at under 20 level in leinster in next 3 or 4 years. If Meath start winning under 20 leinster titles that probaly will be a game changer.
Under 20 , under 21 is an age grade we have never really done well. Our record at under 21 level was dreadful. No leinster title in 16 years at under 21 level and only 1 leinster under 21 appearance in 16 years. We won 4 or 5 leinster under 21 titles and an All Ireland under 21 title and two minor All Irelands in the 90s. Before that tlr record was poor at under 21 and decent at minor. Other then 90s our record at underage has been patchy. However at senior our record was outstanding up to 2010. We built teams with little underage sucess up to 1990. 1987 1988 team hadn't an underage medal between them. Things have changed. U cannot have sucess at senior without underage sucess. To give Meath credit , anytime we have had sucess at underage, we have always turned it into senior sucess.
So for me 2012 minor team players peaking and new talented players coming onto the senior team and making instant impact straightaway have contributed massively to Meaths improvement. But I think 4 players have come of age have become real leaders on this Meath team. They r Conor McGill Donal keoghan Cillian Sullivan and James McEntee.
1 Donal keoghan wud walk onto any team in country. On his day one of best defenders in Ireland and on his day best defender in the country. A real leader at number 6 for Meath . He is 27 and is now playing the best football of his career.
2 Conor McGill would walk onto to any team in the country. Even the Dublin team. Dublin have problems at full back. McGill is as good a full back if not better then Rory Carroll. Only 25 he is also starting to peak. He could possibly be the best full back in the country. Name a better one. Another player who is becoming a leader.
3 James McEntee has been transformed since he moved from wing forward to wing back at the end last years league. In his last 9 matchs for Meath he has been man of the match in 5 or 6 of the matchs. He is an attacking wing back , a type of player Meath have been crying out for years. Another player peaking at age of 25.
4 Cillian Sullivan. Cillian Sullivan always had a touch of class about him. Skilful player with huge pace and vision. However in first few years was inconsistent. He could be brillant one day poor next. He also had massive injury problems. He was also player who had a tendency to lose ball in tackle. This year he has really bulked up after 4 years stenght and conditioning. Now he doesnt lose the ball in the tackler.
He has been very consistent this year. A real leader on the 40. He was brillant v Fermanagh. He is also peaking at the age of 25. I always felt Sullivan was hugely important player for Meath. And he is becoming one. He is shown real maturity and leadership this year. Sullivan McGill Keoghan or J McEntee one of them will be Meaths next all.star player. In the coming season or two. People outside the county are going to be talking about these guys.
While Seamus Lavin Shane Gallagher Ronan Ryan Shane McEntee Daragh Campion Ben Brennan T O Reilly have been good this year and have all improved this year , and Menton and Newman r experienced players who have also had good seasons. For me Donal keoghan Conor McGill James McEntee and Cillian Sullivan are the main men on this team and are all coming of age as footballers. The good thing is so many of these Meath players have their best football in the Meath jersey ahead of them.
Furlong1949 (Meath) - Posts: 833 - 27/03/2019 17:13:56