ON Sunday he will have the unenviable task of keeping tabs on Tomás O’Connor. Kevin Reilly knows all too well that it will be no easy job. He’s had tussles with the Clane man before, some bad, some good and this weekend he will be hoping for a repeat of the latter as Reilly and Meath look to resurrect their season. Here Ruth Chambers talks to the talented Meath full back.
According to Navan O’Mahoney’s man Meath football can’t get much lower than this. Relegation to Division 3, drawing with Carlow and of course management struggles have dogged Meath football of late. This year has, thus far, been a low ebb for a very proud footballing county and rescuing 2012, by talking the scalp of Kildare, would go some way to making amends. Reilly, however, is fully away of the magnitude of the job ahead.
“We are very much going in as underdogs especially after the couple of months that we’ve had what with our league form and everything else that has gone on off the pitch. We’re getting there slowly and Kildare will be massive favourites and rightly so,” Reilly told the Leinster Leader this week.
“Kildare have put an awful lot of time, effort and money in to developing this current team. Kieran (McGeeney) has been in there for the last four years and you can see the massive improvements he’s made. They play well to a good system, they’re in great shape, great form and they will be thinking that this year is their time,” added the Meath full back.
Back in April, after losing to neighbours Louth in the Allianz Football League, the executive committee of the Meath County Board proposed that boss Seamus McEnaney be removed from his position and be replaced by former manager Sean Boylan. The proposal came after the Royals’ disastrous Division 2 campaign and just months before Meath kick started their Leinster Championship assualt against Wicklow. The situation was hardly ideal but Reilly is thankful that it’s now behind the team and they can concentrate on getting their season back on track.
“There was a lot that went on every side. There’s no black and white to it at all. We seem to have come out the other side of it now and maybe we could be the better for it. Hopefully we can move on and make something of the year,” explained Reilly.
Meath’s recent woes have certainly been hitting the headlines but things appear to be back on course. Tipperary man John Evans has joined the Royals in a coaching capacity after the departure of former Kildare coach Paul Grimley and Reilly wasn’t too disappointed to see the back of the Armagh man.
“He (Paul Grimley) was a man that was quoted as saying ‘I will follow this team to the gates of hell’ but he didn’t.”
Reilly admitted that at the time (Grimley as trainer) it was a strange situation but feels his departure has benefitted Meath.
“We couldn’t get much lower than this year and we’re building slowly now. We know we have a lot more to do and we’re by no means the finished article but we’re getting there. We have John Evans in with us now and he’s putting a new system in place, he is doing the right things, trying to get us back on track and in fairness it is working. Whether we have enough time to turn things around I’m not sure but we’re moving in the right direction,” added Reilly.
Kildare met Meath last summer in the quarter final of the Leinster Championship at headquarters and it was the Lilywhites who prevailed by a six point margin but they trailed 0-7 to 0-5 at the interlude. With 56 minutes played the Royals lost the services of Brian Farrell to a red card, substitute Graham Geraghty had a goal disallowed and a strong finish sealed victory for the Lilies.
In recent times Kildare have a good record against Meath but Reilly admits that there has been little between the teams and if the Royals can combat the Lilies’ strong finish then there might, just might, be an upset caused.
“There has been very little between any of the games in recent years. They got points at a crucial time here and there and then the 60 minute mark seems to be the time when we come undone and they push on. That is an area that we have to look at and if we stop that flow at that time we could be in with a chance,” he admitted.
And does Reilly relish the thoughts on keeping an eye on Tomás O’Connor this Sunday? He’ll be hoping to keep O’Connor quiet but if it doesn’t go to plan he’ll at least be thankful that he won’t be returning to his old job, in Scoil Mhuire in Clane, come September!
“He is a handful alright! We’ve had a good few battles. Tomás (O’Connor) would be the focal point of the Kildare attack and his performance was much publicised last week after their win over Offaly. Everything goes through him and if we can curb that we might have a chance,” he said.
Of course there’s a tiny chance that Reilly might come up against an old house mate and pal on Sunday too. During his time studying in DCU Reilly shared a house with Seanie Johnston. The Meath man wishes his friend well, however would not be overly impressed with the whole transfer saga.
“I’d like to see him (Seanie Johnston) doing well but, in my own opinion, I don’t think it should have happened. It’s not in the spirit of the GAA unless it’s in extreme circumstances where you are actually living and working in a particular county,” admitted the talented defender.
Kevin Reilly has been one of Meath’s leading lights in an otherwise dark 2012, he has the utmost of respect for Kildare but there’s only one thing on his mind and that’s victory, an upset and perhaps a shot at the Dubs (if they pass the Wexford test that is) in the Leinster final.