Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park

SINCE OFFALY NEARLY dumped them out in the Leinster SFC preliminary round, Meath’s performance levels have improved greatly over the past two games.

They had 15 points to spare over an extremely defensive Carlow outfit and backed that up with a 3-13 to 0-11 win against 2018 Leinster finalists Laois yesterday afternoon.

They now find themselves staring down the barrel of Dublin’s gun in the provincial final. 

Royals boss Andy McEntee is well aware there are plenty of improvements required ahead of that showdown against the All-Ireland champions in two weeks’ time. 

They missed 17 scoring chances against John Sugrue’s side, although 21-year-old attacker James Conlon did look extremely lively on his first competitive start for the county.

Conlon arrived off the bench in the 61st minute against Carlow and finished with three points. He added a further five from play against Laois as Stephen Attride endured a difficult afternoon on the nippy corner-forward.

“That has been coming,” said McEntee. “He has been very patient, he showed very well in training pretty much all year and we just felt the way he was going in training that today was the time to give him a start.

“He has earned his stripes to let him out there and see how it would go and obviously it worked well.

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“He has to develop other sides to his game as well for a guy getting his first start in Croke Park in such an important game I think most fellas would sign for that.”

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Cillian O’Sullivan takes off against Laois.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dublin will be well aware of the danger posed by Conlon and he’s unlikely to be afforded the same sort of space in two weeks’ time. 

Will he be able to live with the extra pressure the next day out?

“Well he is going to have to,” replied McEntee.

“That’s the deal – you show up well and people take note and he will find the next day a little more difficult as well. Every time you progress the standard goes up.

“It will go up a few more notches the next day, You will hardly see Dublin quaking in their boots. There was some good parts to our game today but there were some average enough bits as well.”

Meath scored just three points in the opening 20 minutes and McEntee conceded it was one area they must improve on.

“We were a little slow out of the blocks, we conceded a good bit of the pitch early which wasn’t what we had in mind and then in the latter stages I thought we got sloppy. I’d say we had more wides in the last 10 minutes than the previous 60.”

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