Andy McEntee up for the challenge of ending Dublin’s reign
Meath manager has delivered All-Ireland club glory for Ballyboden St Enda’s
Andy McEntee: “They still looked pretty decent that day, against a pretty decent Kerry team. But it does show they can be beaten.” Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho
Meath’s Stephen Bray celebrates scoring a goal against Dublin with team-mate Joe Sheridan during the 2010 Leinster semi-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
“Why not?” says Andy McEntee, answering the question with the question. Can anyone possibly shake Dublin’s hold on the Leinster football title?
Meath were the last team to do just that, beating Dublin in the 2010 Leinster semi-final, hitting them were it hurts with five goals to none (5-9 to 0-13).
Dublin had won the five previous Leinster titles, and not many people saw that defeat coming. They’re now going for a record seventh title in succession and not many people are giving rival counties a chance.
McEntee – in his first season as Meath manager – is not making any bold predictions but he does believe the gap might be closing. All he is saying is give hope a chance.
“It might be a little bit early, but if teams prepare properly, and perform on the day, then that’s the nature of sport. You hear a lot of people complaining about Dublin, that they have all this, and all that. Dublin have set the bar, and it’s up to other teams to follow.
“Meath are putting structures in place, have put structures in place, and things have improved a lot in the last couple of years. And I think it is obvious Kildare are doing the same, and Louth, Westmeath. Everybody is improving.
“Dublin have probably stolen a march, and do have some natural advantages, but I think ultimately they will be responsible for raising the standards in Leinster overall.”
Part of the problem for Meath right now is psychological. For years, they didn’t believe they were better than Dublin but certainly just as good; now that belief has wavered into thinking maybe Dublin are just better. Have their once close rivals put the fear into Meath?
“There is bound to be some of that,” says McEntee, who managed the Meath minors to Leinster and All-Ireland finals in 2012, and last guided Ballyboden St Enda’s to a first All-Ireland club title.
“If you lose to a team time and time again, and there is a big gap there, or appears to be, there’s bound to be a bit of a complex. But it was like with Ballyboden, if you perform consistently, you always give yourself a chance.”
They’re on opposite sides of the draw, which means Meath could meet Dublin in the Leinster final, provided they get over Louth/Wicklow, and then Kildare/Laois/Longford. After missing out on promotion to Division One (finishing third behind Kildare and Galway), McEntee is not looking beyond either of those games, but again has his hopes.
“There are a lot of people who are of the opinion it would be too early for us [Division One], but who knows? I’d have loved the opportunity to find out, to test yourself regularly against the best teams.
“Our immediate goal is to get to Croke Park, and that means beating Louth or Wicklow. After that I think we’ve a group of players capable of performing in Croke Park. Is a Leinster final possible? It’s certainly an aim for us, yes. Meath have got to play Dublin the last couple of years, and haven’t really produced much. So our real goal is to be a consistent, hard-working, difficult team to beat.”
Has Kerry’s win over Dublin in the league somehow made Dublin a less difficult proposition?
“Yeah, you could look at it that way, or say Kerry have just poked the bear. They still looked pretty decent that day, against a pretty decent Kerry team. But it does show they can be beaten, like any team can be beaten in any sport.
“I think we’ve a decent group of players, a lot of good athletes. So no illusions, one way or the other. I thought they can do something coming in here, and my mind hasn’t changed so far.”
Dublin Leinster football titles
16 in the last 25 years – 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
Meath Leinster football titles: Four in the last 25 years – 1996, 1999, 2001, 2010