MEATH FACE FORMIDABLE opposition in the form of Dublin in this Sunday’s Leinster SFC final, but at least one man believes they have what it takes to prevail.
And Sean Boylan knows Meath football better than most, having managed the side for 23 years, before finally leaving the position in 2005.
While Dublin are firm favourites to secure a seventh Leinster Championship in eight years, the former manager believes Meath’s youth and sense of fearlessness could prove to be significant factors in the game.
“There are two things about Sunday. Knowing some of the Dublin management, they would have liked to have beaten Meath on their way to the All-Ireland because of what happened the year before. So they have a carrot. Some of our lads have nothing to lose. Their football career has been salvaged.
“If you look at Galway and Kilkenny last Sunday. Henry Shefflin shipped three hard tackles in the second half and after that you could see he was back. It’s there in your psyche and I’ll be amazed if he’s not a very different man after that and he might have got something back if he had questioned himself. And I think that’s what has happened for these (Meath) lads. They are young men, David Gallagher is by a mile the oldest man and then Shane McAnarney. Kevin Reilly is only 25 but it seems like he has been around forever.”
Despite achieving the considerable feat of reaching the final, many critics have doubted their ability in recent times, but Boylan is in no way surprised by the progress that the team have made.
“I’d be very surprised if they didn’t [get to the final] because I know the calibre of lad that is there,” he says. “They have taken some stick in their own county but I didn’t criticise them and I never would.”
Boylan goes on to suggest that the manner in which Meath have succeeded, despite some moments of uncertainty, almost defies logic.
“The first day against Wicklow they were five points down. I was behind the goals. Wicklow seemed to be on a roll. And I said ‘Lads Meath will kick the shi*te out of them” and that was what happened.
“Against Carlow the first day I was so despondent after that because things had gone well for them in a way. But after the second game, things had begun to click in a different way. I always said, there is a certain madness in Meath football. You can’t take that out of us. You can’t structure us. That is true. It is a mad belief that you can always win and it has always been the same.”
Although some may claim that there is more to their game than Boylan indicates, his words cannot be readily dismissed, given his stature in Meath football.