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Reilly urges Meath to dig deep after Dublin nightmare

By Declan Bogue

Despite being kindred spirits in terms of how they play their football, it has been a somewhat quiet time in the traditional rivalry between Armagh and Meath of late. By the time the wheel was turning for Armagh in 1999, when they won their first Ulster in 17 years and made it to an All-Ireland semi-final, Sean Boylan was making hay with his second great team.

Meath won that day, Armagh heading home with a measure of regret but hopeful of a dawn that would last the best part of a decade.

Earlier this season they met in the league. Armagh had shown some good early form, and with 11 points from Jamie Clarke took both points out of Páirc Tailteann. As poor as Meath were that evening, they still were not far from full-strength.

What will concern Armagh is Meath's power of recovery.

One week later, they travelled to Ballybofey to take on Donegal. With the very last play of the game Michael Murphy faded a sideline ball over the bar to share the points.

Meath came with pride stung but still showed that they hadn't lost their 'Meathness'.

Their captain Kevin Reilly said he expects a "tough physical encounter", qualities that have long since been synonymous with football in each county.

He has also been impressed with how they have managed to turn things around.

From that win in the league in Navan, they beat Laois before losing their last three games in being relegated to Division Three.

"At the start of the year they were relegated in the league, but you just see the value of what a good run in the Championship can do for a team. They seem to be quite united, they are winning matches, which is the most important thing and with every game comes that little bit more confidence."

The 32-year teacher at Colaiste na hInse, Bettystown, continued: "Their confidence is going to be high and I'm sure they are looking forward to facing us."

After their Leinster final skinning by Dublin, 16 points separating them by the finish. Reilly concedes that the first battle they have to win is in their own heads and hearts.

He explained: "I think how the lads put the disappointment of the Leinster final behind us will be a real test of character. And how we pick ourselves up and regroup.

"There's a lot of hurt there. And there should be. It's only fair. We came in for a lot of criticism in our performance and in my opinion, some of it was justified.

"There are standards set. When you pull on a Meath jersey, there are standards expected of you and we didn't reach them the last day. That's the really disappointing thing.

"I've no problem saying it. We really had to perform and we didn't. But I think there will be a reaction. I think there has to be.

"If there's any character in this squad at all, there will be a reaction. And we have to put in a performance."

And he also maintains that they are on the right road under the managerial team of Mick O'Dowd and selector Trevor Giles, stating: "I think we have progressed an awful lot from where we started out under Micko.

"There are quite a few new faces with little experience. They're getting experience all the way along.

"But the steps have to be taken first. We are progressing. We've come a long way. We'll put in some very good performances. The last day wasn't one of them. But we hope to be back there."

Belfast Telegraph

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