Sean Geraghty: 'We feel we belong here'
By John Harrington
Meath’s Christy Ring Cup success in 2016 was a bolt from the blue that has electrified hurling in the Royal County.
Usually the only place you’d see the Uniflu sponsored county hurling team jersey was on a player, but now they’re being snapped up by supporters keen to jump on the hurling band-wagon.
Underage hurling structures in the county have been well run for a number of years now and the sudden emergence of a competitive senior team couldn’t be more timely.
There’s a generation of young hurlers in Meath hungry for heroes, and senior team corner-back Sean Geraghty has been bowled over by reaction he and his team-mates are now getting.
“I wouldn't be from a massive Meath hurling stronghold, but a young lad walked past me the other day and said 'Seanie will you sign my jersey?'” says Geraghty.
“I was waiting for the Devinish sponsor, but it had Uniflu, I said ‘where did you get that?!’
“Little things like that show there is a buzz, people have big memories of last year, winning the Christy Ring. That was massive, it was great, memories of a lifetime.
“We had a fan night, I went up as a young lad with my Dad when Sean Boylan had these open training nights. There would be hundreds of kids watching the Meath footballers to get autographs, but last June it was us.
“They were there with their hurls and helmets and they were mad to meet us. It was nice, not to get a taste of it, but to see what we are doing here, it isn't just about you.
“It was phenomenal. Even my own club on the day of the Christy Ring there was a busload of lads which would be unheard of from our club, for a hurling game.
“They have seen a Meath team go to Croke Park, lift a trophy at Croke Park, people might be thinking hold on here a second I don't have to be a footballer to play in front of big crowds.
“If I keep with the small ball, I'll be well fit and there will be opportunities to play against big teams, to test yourself on these big occasions in front of a couple of thousand people, which is every GAA persons dream, to play in front of big crowds. It has had a massive impact."
Meath’s Christy Ring Cup success last year and the manner in which they confidently backed it up by winning this year’s Division 2B League title in such confident fashion has earned them a new respect outside of the county as well as inside it.
“It has, even little things like looking for challenge games,” says Geraghty. “A couple of years ago it was hard to get challenge games against teams that were a step up above you, now we are getting them. We are playing good challenge games against good counties now.
Dublin came down at the start of the year, that is one thing you notice, other teams are beginning to stand up and take notice.
“Even within our county. Again football is the main sport, but even now at games we had Offaly in the first week in January. Trim was packed out, I never saw a crowd like it in Trim.
“Meath hurling is on the crest of a wave at the moment, but at the end of the day it was generated by us. We need to keep that going over the next couple of weeks, starting off in our first game in Navan.”
Sunday’s Round-Robin clash with Kerry is Meath’s first Leinster Senior Hurling Championship match since 2004.
Meath are the outsiders in a group that also contains Laois and Westmeath, but by now they believe that anything is possible.
Not only is Geraghty bullish about their prospects of qualifying from the group for the Leinster quarter-final proper, he also believes that Meath hurling is now capable of being consistently competitive in the province for years to come.
“We are the outsiders, but we feel we belong here,” he says. “A few people after the Christy Ring last year would say we needed another year there, but we feel we are well fit to go to play these teams.
“There always was hurling in Meath, if we could just get our act together. It has fallen into place and the great work being done at underage level is now filtering through.
“We know that we have to have some lads coming after us. Even this year the Under 21s have come in and they have pushed us on. That is what you need, it is the oldest ingredient.
“Everything has really come on in Meath hurling. The structures are there for us to go to compete.”