Meath's Harry O'Higgins seeks to stop Waterford's Jason Gleeson in his tracks. PHOTO - PAULA GRIEF/WWW.CYBERIMAGES.NET

Royals defeat the Deise in a game of sharply contrasting halves

If they are not careful the Meath footballers could become labelled as the Jekyll and Hyde team of the Tailteann Cup.

They have now won two games in succession with the opening round win over Tipperary last week followed up yesterday with a victory over Waterford at Fraher Field Dungarvan.

The 3-17 to 1-14 win, in what is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque grounds in the county, was well deserved too - but only because of the way they performed in the second-half.

Such a mixed back is unlikely to be good enough to defeat Down in their next outing.

Unlike the scenic backdrop to the famous old Dungarvan ground - where All-Ireland hurling finals were staged in the early years of the last century - Meath's display was far from spectacular in the opening half.

The contrast between the two displays was as sharp as night and day, sea and land, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

It was only in the second stanza, after adjustments were made to the team, that they started to motor and fashion three goals scored by Mathew Costello, Jordan Morris and Donal Lenihan to seal the win they they were always expected to secure.

That may have been part of the problem. Meath were red hot favourites and because of that a certain weight of expectation may have pressed down hard on the shoulder of the young, inexperienced troops who now make up the bulk of this team - and two more debutants stepped up in this game, Eoghan Frayne and John O'Regan.

That could be one explanation for a scrappy, disjointed opening half performance that ended with Meath ahead by 0-9 to 1-4. The remarkable thing about that scoreline was the fact that home tally included just one goal because it could have been two or three more - at least.

At times during the opening half the Meath defence was badly exposed with only some heroics by newcomer Sean Brennan preventing Waterford from gorging on a goal-fest. Lack of composure by the attacking Waterford players was a factor too. They seemed to panic once they found themselves in on goals, perhaps startled by how easily they got through the Meath defensive battlements.

The Dunderry goalkeeper hadn't touched the ball when he found himself left exposed and facing Waterford's Darragh Corcoran racing in on him, one-to-one. Brennan stayed calm and made the fine reflex block, although he was helped by the fact the ball was hit straight at him. The ball bounced back to Corcoran who again looked like he might score. Again Brennan saved this time with an acrobatic save. Brilliant.

There were other times during the opening half when marauding Waterford forwards caused as much confusion in the Meath defence as a fox in a henhouse with Brian Lynch another home player denied by Brennan. Waterford did take one of the goal chances presented to them, when Jason Curry fired home on 19 minutes. It was enevitable they would take one of their chances.

A feature of the opening half was that all of Meath's nine points came from two players - Costello and Aaron Lynch. Both had good games with Lynch again very lively and confidently clipping over five points in that opening act, including three near scores from play.

The visitors, however, suffered greatly from turnovers as attack after attack petered out. It was frustrating for the small contingent of Meath supporters to have to watch. Worrying too.

The second-half was much more what the doctor ordered from a Meath perspective. The team was freshened after the break by the introduction of subs including Cillian O'Sullivan and James McEntee. They brought a new energy and zest that drove on the revival.

Meath's opening goal after 41 minutes really pushed the team's cause on. Ronan Jones drove forward before passing to Costello who finished with a low drive.

On 54 minutes the route one approach paid dividends. The ball was played in high, Morris won possession and was fouled. No doubt. Kingscourt clubman dusted himself off and expertly converted the spot-kick.

A lively, enterprising move yielded goal three towards the end Morris passing to Donal Lenihan who smacked the ball home. Game over.

Eoghan Frayne came on to make his debut, was booked before lofting the ball over the bar. It was all academic well before the end.

Meath had, as everyone expected, won the day supporters were again left scratching their heads at the how Meath so disjointed in the opening half could be so different in the second. Like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.


Meath - Mathew Costello 1-5 three frees, '45'; Aaron Lynch 0-6 three frees; Jordan Morris 1-2, penalty, mark; Donal Lenihan 1-2; James McEntee 0-1; Eoghan Frayne 0-1.

Waterford - Darragh Corcoran 0-8 seven frees; Jason Curry 1-0; Conor Murray 0-2; Dermot Ryan 0-2; Jordan O'Sullivan 0-1; Tom O'Connell 0-1.


Meath - Sean Brennan; Harry O'Higgins, Ronan Ryan, Michael Flood; Donal Keogan, Padraic Harnan, Sean Coffey; Ronan Jones, Conor Gray; Cathal Hickey, Daithi McGowan, Keith Curtis; Jordan Morris, Mathew Costello, Aaron Lynch. Subs - James McEntee for Hickey, Cillian O'Sullivan for Curtis both half-time, Eoghan Fryane for Jones 50 mins, Donal Lenihan for Lynch 62m, John O'Regan for Keogan 65m. Black card - Cillian O'Sullivan 69m.

Waterford - Ben Kirwan; Liam Fennell, Darragh O Cathasaigh, Eoghan McGrath-Butler; Dermot Ryan, Brian Looby, Jordan O'Sullivan; Michael Curry, Brian Lynch; Conor Murray, Darragh Corcoran, Jason Curry; Michael Kiely, Jason Gleeson, Sean Whelan-Barrett. Subs - Conor O Cuirrin for Kiely 45 mins, Tom O'Connell for Gleeson 50m, Mark Cummins for Fennell 66m, Donal Fitzgerald for Whelan-Barrett, John Devine for Curry both 68m.

Referee - Sean Lonergan (Tipperary).

Meath's Conor Gray rises high to secure possession against Waterford.