Mick O’Dowd blames lack of maturity for Meath’s capitulation
Westmeath’s hero Kieran Martin always felt comeback was possible
Meath’s goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke was given a red card for this collision with Kieran Martin. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
A Dublin footballer, momentarily lost in the Croke Park media room, wondered aloud about the first Leinster semi-final. Kieran Martin happened, we tell him – 2-3 from play. “Old school?” asked the Dub. Pretty much. Oldest trick in the GAA coaching manual: drop the big defender onto the opposition square’s edge as Westmeath chased a hopeless nine-point deficit with 20 minutes to play.
Licence to roam
And John Heslin too. “Where did he play?” another Dub enquired.
Everywhere. Spooked the hell out of Meath, he did. Stealing balls as they tried to sneak out of defence. Put up 1-9 and even lashed the last free wide.
Martin stalled at the team bus. Well made about covers him. So bloody tough he took a full-frontal challenge from Meath goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke, before leaping off the turf to lose those last drops of blood for the cause.
“I think the occasion got to a lot of fellas,” he said of the 2-10 to 1-3 scoreline on 30 minutes. “We had three or four fellas who have never played in Croke Park before. It is a huge step up . . . The stadium does get to you. We knew once we got in at half time that we were not out of the game. We got 1-9 in 10 minutes against Wexford. Once we clicked, we knew there would be no stopping us.”
From unbridled joy to an awfully sombre Mick O’Dowd. Perhaps expectations placed on his team are too high?
“I don’t know,” the Meath manager said. “I think actually it’s been incredible, the criticism that has been pointed at Meath. Average age is 23. We are developing a new team. When we were nine or 10 points up, if you had more maturity around the team I think we would have killed that game. We didn’t. I’m not a negative person so I would think there is more to come from this Meath team in the years ahead.”