GAA Football

Kieran McGeary knows what Tyrone can expect from Meath challenge

Tyrone's Kieran McGeary lifts the BOI Dr McKenna Cup after a dramatic final between Tyrone and Monaghan at The Athletic Grounds in Armagh on January 19 2020. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Francis Mooney

Kieran McGeary continues to shudder at the thought of a dramatic afternoon in Navan 18 months ago.

Tyrone stood seconds away from a shock Championship exit at the hands of an inspired Meath side when Cathal McShane came to the rescue with a late, late leveller.

A compelling Qualifier went to extra-time, at the end of which Royal hearts were broken by a Red Hand side that squeezed through and went on to reach the All-Ireland final.

McShane won’t be at Healy Park on Sunday when the sides meet again in the NFL Division One opener, but McGeary, who set up that priceless equalising score at Pairc Tailteann back in 2018, will be.

“That day in Navan was extremely scary and we were lucky to get out of there with a win,” he said.

“It was a severe test but was a win that stood to us and we were able to go all the way to the All-Ireland final.

“We certainly know what to expect from them in Omagh and we will prepare for the game as best as possible.

Meath’s journey back to the League’s top tier has been far from straightforward, with many setbacks and false dawns encountered all the way.

But this re-engagement with the county’s leading sides seems natural for a relatively recent super-power, a county with a proud tradition and a solid heritage.

“Meath will be aiming to prove a point and get off to a fast start in their first game which just happens to be us and we know that we are going to be targeted.

“When teams come up a division in the League they are always determined to prove their worth that they belong there and Meath will certainly be no different.”

Encounters between these two counties down through the years have frequently been feisty, and McGeary expects a physical contest when the Royals come to town.

“It’s going to be a hell of a physical battle and if you take the ball into the tackle against them you will definitely be stripped off possession. They are fit and they are also a tall team as well so they have all that you would want in a footballing team.

“The fact that it is a home game for us will make no difference as they will still come with intensity and physicality so we will definitely try and match that and come out with another win.”

Tyrone will be targeting Sunday’s League opener as a must-win, conscious of the fact that they have just three home game in this year’s campaign.

And the remaining two Healy Park fixtures are against giants Dublin and Kerry.

“Division One is very competitive and fixtures are what they are,” said McGeary.

“You can play anyone at home and still end up getting beat. We have a lot of tough games coming up but we wouldn’t be looking past Meath this Sunday.

“It may be the first outing but there are two vital points up for grabs and we will be ready for the challenge that Meath bring us.”

With injuries and absentees hitting hard on the squad, opportunities will be offered to emerging prospects who arrived on the scene in recent weeks as Tyrone won the Dr McKenna Cup for the eighth time in nine seasons.

“The McKenna Cup is a good competition to prepare for the league as it gives you competitive games and the management a chance to give new players a run out.

“There were a lot of mistakes made and a lot of good play as well. It helps blow the cobwebs off after Christmas and we are happy to have got the full quota of four games and happy to have won it again.

“It’s a great opportunity to give players who are fresh into the panel a chance to show what they are worth at this level and a lot of boys certainly did that.”

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GAA Football