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Martin smarting to prove he's No1.

MIDWAY through the second half of their semi-final clash with Louth, Meath keeper Conor Martin beat Colin Kelly in a sprint for the ball.

Martin connected perfectly and sent the ball 50 metres back down the park to end the danger.

Meath held on in a close finish and now face Kildare in this afternoon's Leinster Senior Football Final at Croke Park.

As the Ballivor net-minder jogged back to his goals, Meath folk rose to thunderously applaud their number one with a Royal County roar.

"Our full-back line plays out in front of the opposition full-forward line, so my job is to act as sweeper as well as goal keeper," said Martin when reminded of the incident.

After playing in the first National League game against Cavan in Navan, Martin suffered an injury in the following week's training session and failed to regain his place by the conclusion of that competition.

Cormac Sullivan, his understudy and under-21 goalkeeper for four years, filled the breach and pushed Martin all the way for the goalkeeper's jersey in the lead up to the championship.

"Since I became goalkeeper in 1995 I have not had to work so hard for my place as this year. Coming up to the game with Offaly in the first round I was very uncertain of my place," added Martin.

Meath manager Sean Boylan went with Martin's experience and was given no reason to doubt his judgement as Meath conclusively avenged the Leinster final defeat of the previous year.

"Since October all our training has been geared with Offaly in mind. However, it was more difficult to psyche ourselves up for the Louth game in the semi-final.

"Nevertheless, I was glad that we only beat them by one point as it brought us back down to earth," said Martin.

Looking forward to today's game Martin feels that their breaking ball around the midfield diamond area will be crucial.

"Kildare are playing a similar game to us, getting them behind the ball in defence. They have a very strong midfield and Dermot Earley is also a target for many of their kick-outs. Kildare have been scoring well this season and with greater ease than before. Whoever makes the most of the breaking ball will win," he added.

Meath have been deprived of both Jimmy McGuinness and Paddy Reynolds due to injury for this game, both huge losses in the opinion of Martin.

"Paddy was playing great and Jimmy scored a super point against Louth and plays a very important role in breaking up the opponents' attack and setting us going forward," he said.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:O'brien, Karl
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Aug 2, 1998
Words:433
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