MEATH REMAIN ONE game away from reaching the Super 8s, but Andy McEntee faces a challenge to lift up his troops in time for their round 4 qualifier in two weeks.

Andy McEntee watches Dublin lift the cup.

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

While the Royals battled hard for three-quarters of the Leinster final, they ultimately fell to a 1-17 to 0-4 defeat that threatens to dent the squad’s confidence.

Tyrone, Armagh and Mayo are among the big guns they could face on the weekend of 6/7 July for a place in the All-Ireland quarter-final phase. Reaching the last eight has been their stated aim from the outset of McEntee third year in charge.

Not since 2009 have the beaten Leinster finalists reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

At their Leinster final press night, the manager insisted this game wouldn’t define Meath’s season, regardless of the result. In the wake of a game where they lost by 16 and converted just three of their 17 scoring chances from play, has his opinion changed?

“I don’t know, I don’t know is the answer,” replied McEntee. 

We haven’t been in this position before. It’ll be interesting to see how fellas react. We were one game away from the Super 8s last week, we’re one game away from it this week. Ultimately not a whole pile has changed.

“It will be a fair test of resolve and a fair test of character to come back from a defeat like that.

“I think everybody is hugely disappointed, there was a huge gap in the scoreline at the end of the day.”

Sorting out Meath’s shooting woes will be high up on McEntee’s agenda over the next fortnight. It wasn’t that they were taking pot-shots from distance – just one of their wides from play came from outside the 45 – but Meath were missing chances they’d normally be expected to hit. 

That appeared to be down to poor execution rather than the pressure that was being applied by the Dublin defenders.

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“We needed to be a lot better than we were, we needed to be a lot more clinical in front of goals if we were going to give ourselves any sort of a chance of competing and that’s probably the department that let us down most today,” said McEntee.

“We needed to be able to put Dublin under pressure and it’s fair to say we didn’t really manage that at any stage of the game. We had more shots at goal in the first half than they had, we had 11 they had nine.

“But we had one score on the board at the end of 35 or 36 minutes of play and that says a lot really.

Michael Newman reacts to a wide.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Momentum is great and we needed to be cashing in when we had a bit of momentum and possession. We needed to cash in on it, whether from frees or from play and we just didn’t do that.”

He cut a frustrated figure on the sideline during the first-half when Ben Brennan went down after an off-the-ball clash with David Byrne.

“When you’re getting beaten like that everybody gets frustrated. I’m not sure what the yellow card count was, but I’d say we won that game.”

Indeed, Meath picked up six yellow cards to Dublin’s zero. Another stat: Meath conceded 18 frees to received six yellows and a black, while Dublin gave away 22 frees without picking up a single card. 

“Ah but Dublin aren’t physical so it doesn’t matter,” said McEntee, tongue firmly in cheek.

“I didn’t see it, I don’t know. But certainly people around me seemed to see it and it wasn’t picked up.”

Dublin’s victory sealed a ninth Leinster crown in succession, making it the most dominant provincial run in history across either code. They’ve won 14 of the last 15 titles, sandwiching Meath’s 2010 success.

It raised the familiar questions around the state of the Leinster championship and the long shadow Dublin cast across the rest of the province.

It was a debate that McEntee had no interest in wading into. 

“Let’s be fair about this, I’m not going to start talk about (that). We’re after getting a bit of a drubbing there so I don’t think it’s the time for me to start pontificating about Leinster football or the state of football.” 

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