Hughie Corcoran brought Westmeath's Seanai Bracken and referee ??? to their knees during Meath's Leinster u-20 FC win at Ashbourne tonight. Photo David Mullen /

Meath outpoint Westmeath to secure u-20 FC victory

Following the concession of a Jack Duncan goal after just 19 seconds, Meath recovered to comfortably dispatch of the challenge of Westmeath by 0-18 to 2-5 and book their passage through to the knockout stages of the Leinster u20 FC in a chilly Ashbourne this evening, writes Davy Rispin.

Cathal O Bric’s charges, minus the services of several key players due to injury, were stunned into action directly from the throw-in with Brian Cooney and Shane Hanley combining before Duncan fired home. Remarkably the men in maroon did not register another score for the remainder of the half with their hosts soon finding their mojo in front of the expectant crowd.

Eamon Armstrong clears his lines for Meath in Ashbourne tonight. Photo: David Mullen/ Photo by David Mullen

St Patrick’s clubman Jamie Murphy broke the Royals' duck with a point from 40 metres. Westmeath’s early lead was completed erased by the 10th minute thanks to a brace of quickfire scores from Murphy and Rian Stafford.

Meath took a vice-like grip on proceedings from then on with the excellent Murphy registering another two along with efforts from Jack Kinlough, Brian O’Halloran, Rian McConnell and another from the impressive Stafford to open up a 0-9 to 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Cian Commons sliced over a sumptuous point with the outside of his right in the 23rd minute with Murphy adding another to his tally, this time from a free off the ground. There was one scare for Meath just before the interval with Westmeath corner forward Shane Corcoran rifling a shot off the crossbar and eventually away to safety. This gave Meath an unassailable-looking lead at the break with eight between the teams, 0-11 to 1-0.

Playing with the aid of the elements at their backs in the second period and fighting to stay in the competition, the visitors began with real intent. Brian Cooney's ferocious drive was diverted over the crossbar at the expense of a point. Murphy and Cooney exchanged pointed frees for their sides prior to Commons lashing over from close range to maintain the eight-point margin with 36 minutes on the clock.

The hosts were given another warning after Ronan Murray ghosted in but his shot came back off the post for the luckless Midlanders. It seemed to knock any lingering belief out of Damien Gavin’s troops as Meath continued to chip away with Stafford (free) and a fisted effort from Castletown’s Killian Smyth re-establishing the eight-point buffer at the three-quarter mark.

Meath's Sean O`Hare applies pressure on Westmeath's Jack Duncan. Photo: David Mullen/ Photo by David Mullen

There was one final act of footballing defiance from Westmeath with Tadhg Baker goaling 12 minutes from time after a speculative punt in from Daragh Lowry was not adequately dealt with by the Meath defence. Once more though, Commons eased any lingering Meath doubts or nerves with his third white flag of the evening to make it 0-16 to 2-4 with 10 minutes remaining.

Substitute Hughie Corcoran announced his arrival in style curling over from 35 metres following a penetrative run from last year’s Minor captain Eamon Armstrong.

Stafford capped a fine night for himself with a fourth and third from play approaching stoppage time. Westmeath replacement Matthew Thornton did add a late consolation score for his side but Meath were long since home and dry.

Meath's John O`Regan evades the challenge of Westmeath's Ronan Murray. Photo: David Mullen/ Photo by David Mullen

It was far from a perfect display from O’Bric’s troops, but it was more than enough to account for their disappointing neighbours.

A date with Dublin awaits in Parnell Park next Tuesday and although qualification is already assured for both, the prospect of laying down a marker will surely be top-of-mind when the sides go toe-to-toe.

Meath – Oisín McDermott (Ballinlough); Brian O’Halloran (Ballivor 0-1), Sean O’Hare (Rathkenny), Séimí Byrne (Seneschalstown); Eamon Armstrong (Duleek/Bellewstown), John O’Regan (Skryne), Killian Smyth (Castletown 0-1); Jack Kinlough (St Peter’s 0-1), Charlie O’Connor (Dunshaughlin); Rian Stafford (Kilmainhamwood 0-4 one free), John Harkin (St Peter’s), Conor Duke (Dunshaughlin); Jamie Murphy (St Patrick’s 0-6 three frees), Cian Commons (Seneschalstown 0-3), Rian McConnell (Castletown 0-1). Subs – Tadhg Martyn (Slane) for O’Connor 47m, Conor Ennis (Ballinabrackey) for Byrne 50m, Hughie Corcoran (Drumbaragh 0-1) for Harkin 52m, John Mannion (St Patrick’s) for Smyth 52m, David Curtis (Rathkenny) for Stafford 60m.

Westmeath – Sean O’Driscoll; Adam Keane, Cormac Monaghan, Seanaí Bracken; Liam Daly, Jason Macken, Daragh Lowry; Tadhg Baker (1-0), Shane Ormsby; Jack Duncan (1-0), Brian Cooney (0-4 three frees), Eoin Bracken; Ronan Murray, Shane Hanley, Shane Corcoran. Subs – Tiernan O’Donovan for E Bracken 38m, Rory Cole for Duncan 47m, Matthew Thornton (0-1) for Murray 55m, Dylan Franzoni for S Bracken 55m.

Referee – Colm McCullough (Louth)