Bryan Menton is one of seven survivors from the last Meath team that contested a Leinster SFC final.
Back in 2014 he wore the number 4 jersey as the Royals succumbed to a 1-10 to 3-20 defeat at the hands of arch rivals Dublin. His fellow 2019 joint-captain Donal Keogan, Padraic Harnan, Graham Reilly, Bryan McMahon and Mickey Newman also started that ill-fated day while Mickey Burke featured as a substitute.
Fast forward five years and he’s hoping they can right that wrong. From a Meath footballer’s point of view, challenges don’t come any bigger that Dublin in a Delaney Cup decider but, as the big day fast approaches, Menton and his team-mates won't be deviating from the approach that has served them well to date this season.
“I think we just need to really focus on ourselves, our performance and ensure that we play the perfect game to give us the best chance,” he replied when quizzed about the strength of the opposition at Meath’s Leinster final media night.
“At the start of the year we set out goals to get to Division 1 and a Leinster final. We’ve achieved both of those. From last year, it’s a massive improvement. I think we learned a lot from each league game and I think that’s what has driven us on this year.
“Securing promotion was massive. Meath, as a county, have been chasing that for a long time so it was a big confidence booster but we still know we need to push it up another level now to compete [on Sunday week].”
The Devenish Nutrition sponsored side’s performances have been on an upward curve ever since their close shave against Offaly in round 1 at Pairc Tailteann. A fortuitous Bryan McMahon goal helped to keep their provincial championship hopes alive that day but both Carlow and Laois were subsequently dispatched by double digit margins.
The midfielder got on the end of two moves to score goals in the 3-13 to 1-10 semi-final success over the O’Moore County last Sunday.
“Performances have improved with each game,” agreed the Donaghmore/Ashbourne club who experiences the Meath/Dublin rivalry more than most given his close proximity to the border, “but they are going to have to improve to the top level that we can possibly reach to get over the line on Sunday week.
“There was probably a sense of anxiety about that first game against Offaly. After the gap between the league and the championship you can kind of lose sight of it a little bit and we were lucky to get over the line that day.”
The injection of new blood into the Royal set-up has created healthy competition for places in Andy McEntee’s starting 15.
“The new lads have really driven us on this year. They’ve pushed the likes of me and Donal Keogan and all these players to have to step it up a level to ensure that we are starting. There’s been eight debutants in the championship to date, they’re pushing for places and they’re getting game time.”
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Menton and Meath last lined up behind the Artane Boys Band on provincial final day and they are bidding to make the most of their opportunity on Sunday week.
“Hopefully I’ve learnt a lot since then and, for the young lads, there’s no point looking into it too much - it’s another game of football. All we really want to focus on is performance.”
Make sure to visit the hoganstand.com match tracker this weekend for live coverage from Leinster and Munster SHC round 5 and the Connacht SFC final between Galway and Roscommon.Tweet