‘We haven’t closed the gap on Dublin at all’ admits Colm O’Rourke as Meath take another hammering

Wicklow come close to overturning Kildare but make a mess of last-minute goal chance in Portlaoise

“I’m surprised anybody stayed,” cracked Colm O’Rourke as he walked in to meet the press after his Meath team had taken another Leinster Championship hammering from Dublin. Goals from Seán Bugler, Con O’Callaghan and the excellent Paul Mannion put clear water between the perennial championship winners and O’Rourke’s up-and-comers. On a day when all but one of the provincial matches ended in a double-digit hammering, there was no space on the schedule for romance.

“They are an ambitious group,” O’Rourke said of his charges after they went down to a 3-19 to 0-12 defeat. “They want to get to the level. It was a stark reality check for them to see how far they have to go, just in case anyone was losing the run of themselves.

“We haven’t closed the gap on Dublin at all. But these players are ambitious and they are willing to work hard and, as I keep saying, a lot of them are very young and lacking experience.

“There is no quick fix on Meath football. It is not as if we have been dominating – and I have made the point before – at under-20 or 21 level. We haven’t been in a final for 20-something years, or a senior club final in Leinster in over 20 years. It’s not as if we have this vast pool of highly qualified winners out there that we can just draft in to the team.


“We have set ourselves on a course of action on a team that we knew was not going to be properly competitive in the short-term, but in the belief that within two to five years that this group will form the backbone of the Meath team for a continuous period of time and they would be a lot better then.”

For Dublin, the best part of the day was probably getting Stephen Cluxton, Mick Fitzsimons and James McCarthy back into the mix. They had to claw and scratch for a while in the first half but eventually found their rhythm after the break.

“Look, it’s a win and it’s the Leinster championship so it’s good to get up and running,” said Dessie Farrell. “I thought we performed patchy, which would be the best way to describe it. There were some decent spells and some poor spells so my initial reaction is that it was a mixed bag overall.”

Earlier, Kildare escaped by the tightest of margins against Wicklow in Portlaoise, just about scraping through on a scoreline of 0-16 to 1-12. An injury-time penalty by Oisín McGraynor drew Wicklow level and they could have won it when wing back Matt Nolan had an open goal to shoot at from 45 metres out soon after. But his hurried shot bounced wide and Kildare were able to come up the other end of the pitch to steal the win through a Jack Sargent score.

“I wasn’t actually sure,” said Wicklow manager Oisín McConville, “because it’s a terrible angle to see a game from, but we had an opportunity like that against Down and we carried the ball and we butchered it. So we said the next time we have the opportunity, we’ll all take responsibility for that one, it’s not just one player. It’s something we had looked at, that if we turned the ball over would we have a go, and we decided we would.

“It’s gutting, it’s very difficult to know what to say to players, it was a good performance, it’s probably as well as we have played.”

Elsewhere in Leinster, Louth ran in four goals to easily dispose of Wexford. And in Ulster, Armagh were 3-11 to 0-9 winners over Fermanagh.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times