NOT SO LONG ago, this would have seemed like the perfect scene-set.
Seamus McEnaney left the Meath dressing room yesterday and stood in front of a dirty and dreary white-wash wall, tape recorders pointing at him from all angles.
It had the feel of him against the world, of a firing squad but then McEnaney smiled. Suddenly it’s as if he inhabits a different world. For sure, it will take a while for all that unpleasantness to be washed clean from body and soul but this was the start of the cleansing experience and the start of Meath’s crawl from a gutter they’ve found themselves in of late.
“We are delighted to get the result,” he chirped after his side dominated the second half and were deserving and comfortable 0-16 to 0-11 winners over a largely underwhelming Wicklow.
“We are delighted to get the performance we got. We were down three or four points and knew it would probably take some time for some of the younger players to get going. We were always going to give them that time. But listen, I’d be delighted with the way the lads played.” In short, he was delighted.
Why wouldn’t he be? This is the first competitive game of football they’ve won in over three months, a statistic that dates back to 12 February.
But out of the darkness and finally into the light, Meath defied expectations. Graham Reilly switched to midfield early and was the Man of the Match, Brian Meade was immense in that sector too, after a stuttering start Kevin Reilly got to grips with Seanie Furlong while Brian Farrell before being picked up by Ciaran Hyland and Joe Sheridan both had their moments.
“We scored nine or 10 points with the breeze,” continued McEnaney, rhyming off statistics you can bet you has dreamed about across their pitiful league campaign.
“We used it fairly well. We have a gameplan and the lads are working to that gameplan. It could be rain or wind the next day but you have to stick to your plan.
“So I was delighted with the way the lads played. Especially young fellas, they played really well for us and they’ve added a new dimension to our team. They’ve added more strength and depth and a competitive edge for the Carlow match.”
Asked about all the talk of a potential ambush in this game, McEnaney couldn’t avoid the recent past. “There has been a lot of talk full stop. For me we never lost our focus for this match.
“When we came back into training there was only one thing in our head and that was playing Wicklow here in Carlow on the 27 May, nothing else.
“No matter what was said outside of our group, that is totally irrelevant. The only thing that matters is inside these four wall and the lads have really worked extremely hard. I’m telling you, you can’t believe how hard these fellas have worked over the last four weeks. The team has really gelled together and are prepared to fight tooth and nail for each other.”
Meanwhile asked about the future, a question normally brushed aside by players and managers, it was a relief for Banty to think ahead.
“We have Carlow in 14 days time and there’s going to be competitive edge now in training in the next couple of weeks. We picked our team today on performances in training over the last three weeks and it will be similar for the Carlow match. It’s whose playing well, not who you are with this group of players.”
And all the while Barney Allen hovered around in the background, shaking hands and making small talk. No wonder it felt so good for McEnaney to be talking about the future.