O'Dowd out to rekindle Meath spirit


MICK O’DOWD, who was unanimously ratified as Meath manager at last night’s county committee meeting, has said his priority will be to build team spirit and develop a sense of unity amongthe players, as he takes over the challenging task of restoring the county to football’s top table.

“I feel very strongly we need spirit and unity and when that’s 100 per cent right you can move on to questions of tactics,” he told The Irish Times on a night that also saw Louth appoint former Armagh All-Ireland medallist Aidan O’Rourke, who has worked in inter-county management with Kieran McGeeney in Kildare, and Down extend James McCartan’s tenure.

“People have been analysing teams in terms of systems and whereas some games are very tactical, Donegal built fitness and trust in each other before they tried to implement tactics.

“They were hungry and defended very, very well but that wasn’t new; Tyrone did it and Meath in their day did it – bringing a very, very intense approach. It’s the same principle.”

O’Dowd, a former Meath player who on retirement from the inter-county scene coached his club Skryne to the senior title eight year ago, brings a strong backroom team, including former selectors Trevor Giles and Seán Kelly as well as fitness and conditioning coach Colm Brady, who has worked with two previous managements. All three have won All-Ireland medals.

“I’d say probably since I finished playing I’d hoped to manage Meath at some stage,” says O’Dowd, who was selected ahead of Colm O’Rourke, Graham Geraghty and Paddy Carr.

“This time everything seemed right, family-wise, and my employers Rabo Bank were very supportive and once those two things were in place I was happy to let my name go forward.

“I knew the people I wanted with me and when they were available it didn’t bother me I was definitely a lower-profile candidate. I’d enough confidence in myself and the wealth of experience my management team have.”

He doesn’t anticipate it being a difficult task to restore spirits after a bruising couple of seasons, which saw the board last spring vote no confidence in his predecessor Séamus McEnaney after a disastrous league season ended in relegation to Division Three although the county went on to reach the Leinster final.

“I don’t think so. Meath have a strong tradition in football and there’s enormous work being done in every club at all levels. Maybe players haven’t had a fair platform.

“A lot of the controversial stuff has been external to them and I would hope to get a platform in place that enables players to get the best out of themselves.”

He looks forward to meeting players and selectors alike and starting the process that will lead through to next summer and the opening championship contest with the winners of Wicklow v Longford.

“I haven’t met the players and so far haven’t even had a collective management meeting. When that’s done we’ll look at what we want to do. I look on it as a good challenge. Since word emerged I was the candidate I’ve had nothing but enormous support from everyone and I would like to recreate those year in the 1980s and ’90s when we were a united county going up to Croke Park every summer.”

As well as O’Dowd and O’Rourke being appointed, Frank Dawson was given the green light to take over the Antrim footballers. Dawson’s inter-county experience was with the Down hurlers, who he took to the county’s most recent Ulster title, in 1997, before they lost to Tipperary in that year’s All-Ireland quarter-finals. Also in Down he had successful spells with football clubs Burren and Longstone, taking the former to a county title and the latter to a county final.

These appointments leave just three vacancies in intercounty football management: Roscommon, Clare and Waterford. The first two are not expected to fill the posts for a number of weeks but Waterford hope to be able to propose a successor for John Owens by the end of the month.

Two other counties are hopeful their managers will accept offers of reappointment. Cork’s Conor Counihan has until this day week’s county committee meeting to decide whether to commit for a sixth successive year.

Sligo say Kevin Walsh should have given them an answer by the end of this week. By the time all posts have been filled there will have been nearly a 50 per cent turnover with 14 new appointments for the 2013 season.

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