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Facile victory for Meath

Story by Jimmy Geoghegan

Wednesday, 17th June, 2009 11:29am

ANDORRA v England in soccer, India v Ireland in the Twenty/20 Cricket World Cup, Kilkenny footballers against any other opposition. Just some of the sports mis-matches we have witnessed in sport in recent times.

They are not very edifying spectacles and hold little value for either players or spectators. They are the type of sporting occasions that are best to be avoided.

This Nicky Rackard Cup quarter-final at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday was one of those lop-sided occasions that may have left many of those who had witnessed it numb and even a little deflated at the end. It certainly had that effect on this correspondent.

The home side won and are through to the last four however, any little fizz or element of suspense had started to seep from the contest very early on as the Royals took an iron-like stranglehold on proceedings.

North-east derby games in hurling are rare occasions and on the evidence of this game it is probably just as well as there was little to recommend it as a supposedly competitive contest. It was difficult to avoid the old cliche about a training ground run-out.

One message that emerged loud and clear is that Meath simply have to get out of this grade of hurling sooner rather than later.

If they don"t they will become bogged down in mediocrity and may never be seen again. An exit strategy is a number one objective.

Of the teams remaining in the Rackard Cup London pose the greatest danger although Meath should still be favourites to bag the trophy, particularly after this thumping success.

Alright, this may have been as competitive as Roger Federer taking on Tim Henman in a tennis game, but Meath still did what they had to do and they went about completing their task with an honesty of effort and focus that augurs well for the immediate future at least.

It was hardly their fault that Louth simply weren"t up to the task. Meath could only deal with the challenge put in front of them and they went about doing just that with an impressive efficiency.

Following on from their 1-23 to 0-10 win over Sligo the previous week the Meath management must have been encouraged by another high-scoring success.

The day was dry and sunny, the pitch in perfect condition, everything was just about perfect for a hurling game and the 100 or so supporters who did attend were served up some fine, skilful hurling.

The problem - for those hoping to see a competitive contest - was that it all came from one side. It was as good as over at the interval when Meath led by 0-12 to 0-5 and that after facing into a stiff breeze.

When it came to skill and the ability to take scores there was, for example, the 1-9 notched up by Stephen Clynch. Here is a hurler at the top of his game and he had far too much craft and guile for his opponents. He batted over three points from '65s" and a few more from frees and play and, oh yes, the game"s only goal after 54 minutes.

Philip Garvey and Michael Burke were involved in a move that put the fragile Louth defence under pressure, the ball broke to Clynch about 25 metres out and he rattled it to the net with all the ease and composure of Federer sending a backhand down the baseline for a winning score.

To underline Meath"s dominance we only have to look at the number of players who got on the scoresheet. Eleven players contributed to the big win and some of the points scored were a little special.

There was James Boyle"s booming effort from half-way, Paul Fagan"s sweetly struck free from his own '65" that yielded a point. Peter Durnin and Kevin Fagan had the pace to skip past their markers almost at will.

They each registered four points apiece and staked their claims for games ahead. Joey Keena split the posts on two occasions while Martin Horan, Derek Muldoon and the impressive Garvey and Ray Massey were others who contributed to the scorefest.

Louth offered occasional resistance, but it says a lot that their main scoring threat came from full-forward Diarmuid Murphy and all but one of his points came from placed balls.

The Wee County"s manager Pat Clancy was a brilliant hurler in his day with Westmeath. He patrolled the sideline on Saturday making changes where he could. He must have felt like the little boy who held his finger in the hole of the dam. Clancy is trying to do his bit for the small ball game in one of hurling"s backwaters and facing a thankless task.

With the absence from the starting 15 of players such as Nicky Horan, Neil Hackett and Ger O"Neill this tie did at least offer TJ Reilly a chance to allow some of his younger troops such as Garvey, Fagan, Massey, Durnin and Muldoon an opportunity to gain more experience at this level.

They showed on this occasion that they are capable of performing although it will rarely be as easy as this.


Meath - S Clynch 1-9, three '65s", three frees; P Durnin 0-4; K Fagan 0-4; J Keena 0-2; J Boyle 0-1; P Fagan 0-1, free; M Horan 0-1; M Burke 0-1; P Garvey 0-1; R Massey 0-1: D Muldoon 0-1.

Louth - D Murphy 0-7, five frees, one '65"; E McCarthy 0-1, free; K McNally 0-1, free; B McCabe 0-1.


Meath - S Quinn; C Burke, E Fitzgerald, M Foley; J Boyle, P Fagan, M Horan; M Burke, S Clynch; P Garvey, R Massey, P Durnin; K Fagan, D Muldoon, J Keena. Subs - P Keogh for Massey 46 minutes; M Cole for Muldoon 57m; K Dowd for Horan 56m; T Fox for Boyle 61m; G O"Neill for Garvey 62m.

Louth - E McArdle; M Wallace, A Carter, A Wallace; J Greville, R Byrne, M Martin; T Hilliard, D Callan; A Mackin, E McCarthy, K McNally; C Connolly, D Murphy, B McCabe. Subs - B Corcoran for Mackin 32 minutes; G Rellis for Connolly 49m; C Kerrigan for McNally 55m; D O"Hanrahan for Hilliard 55m; G Kerrigan for McCarthy 69m.


Ger Devlin (Armagh).

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