Honours even in Longford
Meath had to survive a stern test of their credentials from Armagh before Orlagh Lally's 55th minute point salvaged an All-Ireland SFC Group B draw in Pearse Park Longford today.
At no stage did the defending All-Ireland champions have their noses in front, so from that perspective they can probably feel relieved to the get the draw.
They can also reflect on several missed chances by Armagh and also the excellence of Monica McGuirk who made a couple of excellent saves and was alert at a few other scrambles to clear the danger.
Even playing the second-half with the wind at their backs didn't help Meath's cause as dogged and determined Armagh closed them down at every opportunity and refused to allow the normally pacy Meath rearguard build from deep.
That high press by the Ulster champions led to a lot of pressurised passing and a high number of turnovers, but when Meath were staring down the barrel of defeat they came up with the answers in a five minute flurry that yielded three points and earned the draw.
Even with the wind at their backs Armagh struggled to open up the Meath defence. they tried a couple of long probing balls which drifted wide, but once they found their range of passing into the dangerous Aimee Macken they impressed.
Aimee Macken was fouled by Aine Sheridan for the opening score of the game which the Armagh number 13 scored herself.
Aimee Macken used the wind to good effect to double her side's lead in the 10th minute and seconds later Kelly Mallon picked out a wonder pass to find Aimee Macken who made it 0-3 to 0-0.
A strong run at the heart of the Armagh rearguard by Emma Troy set up Orlagh Lally for Meath's opening score, but a foul by Orlaith Duff on Mallon gifted Mallon a simple free to restore her side's three-point cushion.
A fine piece of quick thinking between Vikki Wall and Emma Duggan led to wall being fouled and Grimes converted the free, but again Aimee Macken continued to torment with a fine score from the left to make it 0-5 to 0-2 after 18 minutes.
McGuirk did well to deny Aimee Macken a goal which Mary Kate Lynch cleaned up and from that let off Meath closed the deficit to the minimum with a Wall free followed by one of the scores of the game when Grimes, Aoibhin Cleary and Aoibheann Leahy combined to set up Duggan to make it 0-4 to 0-5.
Aimee Macken edged Armagh two clear again and that was how it stayed until the break.
It took both sides a while to find their stride after the resumption, but it was Mallon who stretched Armagh's lead with a free.
Duggan responded with a huge free from 45 metres and when Leahy added a super score in the 40th minute Meath were back to within one again, 0-6 to 0-7.
Despite playing against the wind Armagh continued to threaten with Blaithin Mackin and Niamh Coleman restoring their three-point lead.
Wall went for goal when under pressure and was easily denied, but then Meath upped the tempo between the 50th and 55th minute and were rewarded with points from Grimes (free), substitute Kelsey Nesbitt and a fine score from Lally to tie the game, 0-9 each.
Armagh pressed for a winner, but kicked a couple of wides and also saw Mallon denied by McGuirk's fingertips as Meath held on to salvage the draw.
Meath - Stacey Grimes 0-2 frees; Emma Duggan 0-2 one free; Orlagh Lally 0-2; Vikki Wall 0-1 free; Aoibheann Leahy 0-1; Kelsey Nesbitt 0-1.
Armagh - Aimee Mackin 0-5 one free; Kelly Mallon 0-2 frees; Niamh Coleman 0-1; Blaithin Mackin 0-1.
Meath - Monica McGuirk; Aine Sheridan, Mary Kate Lynch, Orlaith Duff; Aoibheann Leahy, Emma Troy, Aoibhin Cleary; Maire O’Shaughnessy, Orlagh Lally; Megan Thynne, Emma Duggan, Meadhbh Byrne; Vikki Wall, Stacey Grimes, Niamh O’Sullivan. Subs - Niamh Gallogly for Leahy 51 mins, Kelsey Nesbitt for M Byrne 51m, Orla Byrne for O’Shaughnessy 56m.
Armagh - Anna Carr; Shauna Grey, Clodagh McCambridge, Cait Towe; Niamh Marley, Lauren McConville, Grace Ferguson; Blaithin Mackin, Caroline O’Hanlon; Eve Lavery, Niamh Coleman, Catherine Marley; Aimee Mackin, Aoife McCoy, Kelly Mallon. Subs - Tiarna Grimes for Lavery, Niamh Reel for McCoy both half-time, Alexandra Clarke for C Marley 53 mins, Aoife Lennon for Mallon 57m.
Referee - Garryowen McMahon (Mayo).