Ri­vals play part in Seán Cox fundraiser

Chal­lenge match in aid of Liver­pool soc­cer at­tack vic­tim raises ¤80,000 None of Dublin’s All-Ire­land panel was on the pitch by the end of the match

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Malachy Clerkin

Seán Cox and his fam­ily have tough days both ahead and be­hind them but for an af­ter­noon in Na­van, they at least had this.

A shade of 4,000 peo­ple came through the gate to watch Dublin and Meath play out a com­pet­i­tive chal­lenge game in sup­port of the Dun­boyne man who is re­cov­er­ing from cat­a­strophic in­juries sus­tained when he was at­tacked while at­tend­ing Liver­pool match last April.

Though it didn’t par­tic­u­larly mat­ter who won or lost, the teams none­the­less did him the hon­our of pro­vid­ing an endgame that felt like it mat­tered a great deal.

When all the fig­ures are tot­ted up, the St Peter’s, Dun­boyne club reckon the match will have raised around ¤80,000 for the Seán Cox fund. Mem­bers of his fam­ily were present in Páirc Tail­teann to watch Meath and the Dubs go at it, with Andy McEn­tee’s side get­ting ev­ery­one up of their seats by scor­ing the last four points in a row to grab a 0-16 to 1-11 win.

“To­day is a par­tic­u­larly emo­tional oc­ca­sion for us given Sean’s deep in­ter­est in GAA and his close as­so­ci­a­tion with both Meath and Dublin,” said Martina Cox, Seán’s wife. “Seán him­self would have rel­ished to­day’s game and it is poignant that as he con­tin­ues on his long road to re­cov­ery, that he is un­able to be here in per­son.”

As far as the on-pitch do­ings went, it was all of what you’d ex­pect from a De­cem­ber kick-about. No­body got too ex­cited and the pitch was never in dan­ger of wa­ter-log­ging from the sweat lev­els. Both sides had a sprin­kling of their pre­sumed first XVs here, with Meath wel­com­ing for­mer All Star nom­i­nee Mickey New­man back af­ter a year out of the panel.

For the Dubs, newly-crowned foot­baller of the year Brian Fen­ton put in a handy hour and Jim Gavin gave run outs to front-lin­ers Eoin Mur­chan, Brian Howard and Niall Scully as well. Oth­er­wise, this was a mix­ture of es­tab­lished pan­el­lists like Eoghan O’Gara and Eric Lown­des and up-and-com­ers such as Stephen Smith and Paddy Small.

Sub­sti­tu­tions

In all, there were 18 sub­sti­tu­tions, 11 by Dublin alone. As far as im­pact went, Meath were prob­a­bly bet­ter served by their bench. For a start, Gra­ham Reilly was parachuted in af­ter an in­jury in the warm-up ruled out Meath’s start­ing cen­tre-for­ward. De­spite hav­ing played in Satur­day night’s O’Byrne Cup game against Long­ford, Reilly was in fine fet­tle here and scored three very Gra­ham Reilly points from play. For the Dubs, only Conor McHugh made any great shape when he came in.

“Ev­ery­body was aware of the sit­u­a­tion with Sean,” said McEn­tee af­ter­wards. “It’s like any­thing – these things come from an in­no­cent enough start and we said it would be a good op­por­tu­nity to raise a few quid. And the po­si­tion I’m in and Jim [Gavin] is in it seemed like an rea­son­able idea. There was no is­sue at all – it turns out Jim is quite friendly with Seán’s brother Martin so as soon as it was men­tioned it grew legs from there.

“We went through phase mid­way through the sec­ond half where we made a lot of bad de­ci­sions and gave away a lot of sim­ple ball. And in all fair­ness a few subs came in and added im­petu­ous, the lads came in and af­fected the game pretty well and we got the last four points, did we? That’s pos­i­tive.

De­cent play­ers

“I thought there was a pace to it over­all. Any Dublin side that comes out, I recog­nise a lot of them there are a cou­ple of Bally­bo­den fel­las there and there are all pretty de­cent play­ers. You’d have to ac­cept they haven’t been work­ing to­gether so I wouldn’t be get­ting car­ried away just yet.”

Meath had the bet­ter of the first half, with Reilly, New­man and Bryan Men­ton all swish­ing over pic­ture-book scores in the ser­vice of a half-time to­tal of 0-8. The Dubs put to­gether a cou­ple of nice moves them­selves, with Conor Mul­lally and Seán Bu­gler get­ting on the end of slick one-two hand-pass­ing moves to grab a score apiece.

It all added up to a three-point lead at the break for Meath, which Reilly ex­tended to four al­most im­me­di­ately. The young Dubs roused them­selves with im­pres­sive points from Lown­des and mid­fielder Dar­ren Gavin be­fore Bally­bo­den de­fender Rob­bie McDaid stole for­ward for a smartly-taken goal.

“The clos­est he got to a goal in the three years I was there was the other end of the field,” cracked his for­mer club man­ager McEn­tee.

It looked for all the world like Dublin would close it out from there but the weight of the changes told in the end. None of their All-Ire­land panel was on the pitch by the end and Meath dom­i­nated the ex­changes over the last 10 min­utes. Cor­ner-for­ward Bryan McMa­hon banged over a point off ei­ther leg and wing-back Niall O’Kane nailed the go-ahead score as the clock ticked 70.

Meath saved the best for last, forc­ing a turnover in their own full-back line deep in in­jury-time be­fore putting to­gether a length -of-the-field move that ended with New­man split­ting the posts and bring­ing the Na­van crowd to their feet.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: OISÍN KENIRY/INPHO

Dublin’s Seán McMa­hon chal­lenges Michael New­man of Meath dur­ing yes­ter­day’s Seán Cox Ben­e­fit Fundraiser at Páirc Táil­teann, Co Meath, yes­ter­day; left: Martina Cox, wife of Seán Cox, with their daugh­ters Emma, cen­tre, and Shauna, with Dublin man­ager Jim Gavin and Meath man­ager Andy McEn­tee.

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