Late goal leaves Meath distraught
After overturning a six-point deficit to lead by a point with seven minutes remaining Meath hit the self-destruct and slipped to a gut-wrenching 2-5 to 1-9 NFL Div 1 defeat to Mayo in Pairc Tailteann today.
Trailing 0-1 to 0-7 at the break Meath struggled to press home their significant wind advantage after the resumption as Mayo frustrated them, but then goals from James McEntee and Ronan Jones powered the hosts into a 2-2 to 0-7 lead and a first win of the campaign looked on the cards.
Two points from influential substitute Kevin McLoughlin either side of a point from Cillian O'Sullivan had the teams level 10 seconds before the end of the 70 minutes, but then disaster struck for Meath.
Boxed in inside his own 45 Robin Clarke found himself isolated as Mayo attackers closed him down. In an effort to play the ball away he inadvertantly passed directly to Ryan O'Donoghue who then quickly released McLoughlin for the killer goal.
Meath did get back to within a point with scores from Bryan McMahon and Thomas O'Reilly, but despite there being a couple of stoppages during the four minutes of added time referee Sean Hurson from Tyrone didn't play any extra time and blew the full-time whistle to deny Meath their chance of a first victory over the campaign.
Despite playing into the teeth of a gale force wind Meath created plenty of scoring chances in the opening half, but failed to capitalise as they hit three wides in the opening seven minutes and also squandered a clearcut goal chance.
Bryan Menton and Shane Walsh, from a mark, kicked wides in the opening couple of minutes before Tommy Conroy opened Mayo's account in the fifth minute from their first meaningful attack.
Mark Brennan was deemed to have overcarried after he received possession back from a short kickout and James Carr converted the 13-metre free to double Mayo's lead.
Meath continued to squander chances with Brian Conlon off target and Walsh kicking a 25 metre free from the ground to the left.
Defensively Meath were relatively sound, but it was hard to negate shots from distance as Carr made it 0-3 to 0-0 from over 45 metres in the 13th minute.
Conlon was denied a goal when Diarmuid O'Connor nicked the ball off his toe as he was about to shoot to an empty net and two minutes later Paddy Durcan extended Mayo's lead to four points with another long-range effort.
A misplaced crossfield free from David Toner was picked up by Fergal Boland who pointed with ease, before Meath finally got off the mark in the 25th minute with Menton on target.
Mayo replied with a point for O'Donoghue on the counterattack and two minutes before the break Aidan O'Shea worked the ball out from the corner to Boland who pointed with ease to secure a 0-7 to 0-1 interval lead.
It took 14 minutes before either side bothered the scoreboard operator again. They kicked six wides between them in that spell, but in the 50th minute Meath gaave themselves every chance when Menton won a kickout and worked the ball Donal Keogan who played a couple of one-twos with McEntee before McEntee palmed to the net from close range.
Three minutes later McMahon added a point from a free after Keogan was fouled and when Jones rattled the net in the 55th minute Meath led for the first time, 2-2 to 0-7.
A great tackle by Conor McGill prevented a certain goal for Durcan, but with seven minutes remaining substitute McLpoughlin converted a free to restore parity.
Cillian O'Sullivan restored Meath's advantage from a converted mark, but in the 69th minute McLoughlin pointed from play to level it up again, 0-9 to 2-3.
O'Sullivan squandered a great chance to edge Meath ahead again when he kicked a 40-metre free wide, and then came the moment Clarke will want to forget as he gifted the ball to O'Donoghue who picked out McLoughlin for what proved to be the winning goal.
McMahon and O'Reilly (free) tagged on points in injury-time, but from the kickout after O'Reilly's score the referee blew the final whistle to ensure Meath's misery continued.
Meath - James McEntee 1-0; Ronan Jones 1-0; Bryan McMahon 0-2 one free; Bryan Menton 0-1; Cillian O'Sullivan 0-1 mark; Thomas O'Reilly 0-1 free.
Mayo - Kevin McLoughlin 1-2 one free; James Carr 0-2 one free; Fergal Boland 0-2; Patrick Durcan 0-1; Ryan O'Donoghue 0-1; Tommy Conroy 0-1.
Mayo - Rob Hennelly; Lee Keegan, James McCormack, Brendan Harrison; Eoin O’Donoghue, Michael Plunkett, Patrick Durcan; Stephen Coen, Diarmuid O’Connor; Fergal Boland, Ryan O’Donoghue, James Durcan; Tommy Conroy, James Carr, Aidan O'Shea. Subs – Kevin McLoughlin for Carr, Conor Loftus for Conroy both half-time, Eoghan McLoughlin for McCormack 55 mins, Ciaran Treacy for Durcan 61m, Bryan Walsh for Boland 68m.
Meath - Mark Brennan; Robin Clarke, Conor McGill, David Toner; Ronan Ryan, Brian Conlon, Donal Keogan; Bryan Menton, Ronan Jones; James McEntee, Bryan McMahon, Ethan Devine; Cillian O'Sullivan, Thomas O'Reilly, Shane Walsh. Subs – Joey Wallace for Walsh 46 mins, Eamon Wallace for Devine 53m.
Referee - Sean Hurson (Tyrone).