We're Getting Close To Finding Out Who'll Be The First Meath Man To Play For Ireland
We've searched and searched but, as far as we can tell, there's five counties in Ireland that have never produced a senior international for the Republic of Ireland national football team (or historical precursor for that team).
Carlow, Tyrone, Leitrim and Offaly are perhaps not massively surprising given population sizes, historical factors and distance from traditional soccer heartlands. However it's the case of Meath and their lack of representation on the senior international stage that has caused us to go through the records quite a few times. We've checked and rechecked but regardless of a relatively large population and a close proximity to the traditional feeder clubs in Dublin, a Meath man has never won a senior international cap for Ireland.
We're willing to be corrected on that but until that happens we'll continue to file it in the 'surprising but true' category. After the past couple of weekends however, it's looking increasingly likely that it won't be too long before we can cross Meath of the list of unproductive Irish soccer counties.
Who's going to be the first Meath man to play for Ireland?
At this moment in time, it's looking very likely that it could be between two individuals to fight it out for that honour. Aston Villa's Kevin Toner came to the attention of quite a few Ireland fans a couple of months ago when he showed quite a few of Villa's first choice defenders what they've been missing out on this season during an u21 game against West Ham.
— Adam Bath (@adambath25) April 11, 2016
Toner was promptly shown a red card for that incident, harshly we'd suggest, but it certainly hasn't harmed his chances of breaking into the first team at Villa Park. The 19 year old from Ashbourne started his first Premier League game on Saturday when he partnered Ciaran Clark against Watford. It may not have been the ideal result but Villa fans were impressed and heading into a season in the Championship, Toner has every chance to solidify a place for himself in the first team squad.
And with Ireland's lack of depth in central defence, there's every reason to think the Irish u-19 international could make a case to push for the senior squad before long. By that time however, he may already have been beaten to the punch by another tough tackling Meath man.
While Toner may be may be making a name for himself as an up and coming talent at Villa, Blackburn's Darragh Lenihan has already established himself at Ewood Park and is unlucky to have not already been given a look in by Martin O'Neill.
The 22 year old midfielder from Dunboyne really grabbed his chance under Paul Lambert this season and, be it in central defence or midfield, he's barely missed a game since the turn of the year. There's been quite a few bookings picked up in that time as well but Martin O'Neill does love a midfield enforcer and we're going to go out on a limb and suggest that it's a matter of time before Lenihan gets the call up to the senior squad.
One way or another, be it Lenihan or Toner, recent performances would indicate that it won't be too long before that surprising Meath stat can be confined to history.