Jordan Morris made a welcome return to action for Meath against Longford in today's Leinster SFC clash in Pearse Park. Photo David Mullen /

Meath storm to victory over doughty Longford

Royals survive late goal frenzy to advance to Dubs clash

Where to begin?

What started off looking like being a straight-forward assignment for Meath ended up being a lot closer than expected (3-19 to 3-12), yet the Royals were never in serious danger of slipping up against Longford in Pearse Park today.

The 'reward' for their efforts is a Leinster SFC quarter-final tilt at Dublin and while expectations will be very different for that game Meath will travel to Croke Park next Sunday with a pep in their step after surviving both Storm Kathleen and a doughty Longford side.

There were several times in this entertaining, topsy-turvy encounter when Meath delivered punishing knockout blows on Longford, but Paddy Christie's side never backed down and made a game of it right til the end.

James Conlon launches an attack for Meath in Pearse Park Today. Photo David Mullen / Photo by David Mullen

The reasons for Longford staying in the game were as much down to Meath casualness and dips in concentration as the host's own spirit and determination not to be hammered.

However, Meath were much more comfortable winners than the scoreline suggests and with 2-18 of the Royal tally coming from play it was an attacking approach that reaped the rewards.

Conversely, Meath will have to be concerned with the nature of the way they allowed Longford stay in contention - albeit from a fair distance back in the rearview mirror.

Opting to play with the wind at their backs after winning the toss Meath were clinical and hugely impressive in the early stages. They led 1-10 to 0-3 after 25 minutes and were nine points clear when they suffered a first lapse in concentration that allowed Jayson Matthews' dipping point attempt lob over Sean Brennan's head for a goal.

That three-pointer sustained Longford's desire and gave them something to build on. However, Meath continued to dominate in the second-half and stretched their lead out to 11 points as the game ambled to a close despite playing against the stiff wind.

However, with the winning post in sight Meath switched off again and a hopeful ball aimed goalwards by Dylan Farrell wasn't dealt with by either goalkeeper or defenders and Mark Hughes pounced to tap to an empty net.

Meath showed it was just a temporary blip when they replied with a Cian McBride goal in the 69th minute, but again they switched off and from the next attack Longford replied with a simple goal when Darren Gallagher was afforded all the time in the world to side-foot, unhindered, beyond Sean Brennan.

Meath's Ronan Jones battles with Longford's Darren Gallagher. Photo David Mullen / Photo by David Mullen

The concession of two goals in two minutes was a disappointing blot on Meath's copybook, but they never looked in danger of slipping up and the frantic finish was not emblematic of Meath's otherwise composed, controlled display for more than 65 minutes of this contest.

It was clear from the off that Meath were the better side. Sure the wind helped with their approach play, but they managed the ball well and created opportunities with intelligent passing, both off the shoulder and with the foot.

From the moment James Conlon opened the scoring after 21 seconds they never looked back.

Cathal Hickey doubled the lead two minutes later and even though Daniel Reynolds pulled one back against the breeze it was a rare attack from Longford.

Jordan Morris marked his return with a fisted score, but the first sign of lapses in concentration at the back gifted Darren Gallagher a 20-metre free which he converted to make it 0-3 to 0-2.

Conlon, Eoghan Frayne and an excellent brace from Morris settled Meath and had them 0-7 to 0-2 to the good by the 13th minute.

Longford did manage to create a goal chance, but Daniel Mimnagh was denied by a Sean Coffey block. Referee Niall Cullen brought play back for a tap over free which Matthews converted, but Meath continued to press and added points from Frayne, Ronan Jones (a stunner with the outside of the right) and Conlon to make it 0-10 to 0-3.

Quick, intelligent play by Ross Ryan dispossessed Mickey Quinn and released Morris who set up Conlon for the opening goal in the 26th minute. Longford replied with scores from Dessie Reynolds and Matthews, but Shane Walsh settled Meath with a score from 44 metres.

Then Longford were gifted opportunities by sloppy defensive play. Cathal McCabe's up and under wasn't dealt with by the Meath defence and when Matthews shot goalwards his effort dipped over Brennan's head into the far corner.

Just 90 seconds later Joseph Hagan saw his shot hit the upright and bounce on the bar before dropping over to close the gap to 1-6 to 1-11.

From a position of ease, Meath were pegged back, but they never panicked. Frayne capitalised on a poor kickout to point and then he added another in the 36th minute to ensure a 1-13 to 1-6 interval lead for the Royals.

Meath's James Conlon is challenged by Longford's Liam Hughes. Photo David Mullen / Photo by David Mullen

Despite turning with the wind in their faces Meath dominated the opening stages of the second period with Frayne (free), Conlon and Ciaran Caulfield adding points to stretch the visitors lead to 1-16 to 1-6.

Mark Hughes (free) and Morris traded scores as Meath maintained that 10-point cushion, but Longford continued to press.

Mimnagh pointed from way out on the left into the empty, barren end of the ground and in the 48th minute it took a vital interception by Coffey to deny Longford a goal chance from a sweeping move.

Meath squandered a decent goal chance too when Jack O'Connor set up Frayne, but the Summerhill man's shot was comfortably saved by Paddy Collum.

Dylan Farrell and Matthews cut the deficit to 1-10 to 1-17 with 14 minutes remaining, but Meath sealed the deal when Frayne converted a penalty after Walsh had been fouled to make it a 10-point game.

The closing stages were calamitous from both sides. After Conlon stretched Meath's lead further there was a spell of those three goals in two minutes with Hughes and Darren Gallagher sandwiching McBride's goal for Meath.

Longford closed their tally with points from Quinn and Hughes (free) before Daire Duggan was black-carded.

However, Meath were never in true trouble and it was the excellent Conlon who had the final say as the Royals earned their 'reward' of a trip to Croke Park to take on Dublin next Sunday.


Meath - James Conlon 1-6; Eoghan Frayne 1-5 1-0 penalty, one free; Jordan Morris 0-4; Cian McBride 1-0;Cathal Hickey 0-1; Ronan Jones 0-1; Shane Walsh 0-1; Ciaran Caulfield 0-1.

Longford - Jayson Matthews 1-3 one free; Mark Hughes 1-2 two frees; Darren Gallagher 1-1 one free; Joseph Hagan 0-1; Dessie Reynolds 0-1; Daniel Mimnagh 0-1; Daniel Reynolds 0-1; Mickey Quinn 0-1; Dylan Farrell 0-1.


Meath - Sean Brennan; Donal Keogan, Adam O'Neill, Harry O'Higgins; Ciaran Caulfield, Ross Ryan, Sean Coffey; Ronan Jones, Daithi McGowan; Shane Walsh, Eoghan Frayne, Cathal Hickey; Jordan Morris, Mathew Costello, James Conlon. Subs - Jack O'Connor for Costello half-time, Cian McBride for McGowan 50m, Darragh Campion for Ryan 55m, Keith Curtis for Morris 56m, Ronan Ryan for O'Higgins 66m.

Longford - Paddy Collum; Patrick Fox, Oisin O'Toole, Liam Hughes; Bryan Masterson, Ryan Moffett, Dessie Reynolds; Darren Gallagher, Paddy Kiernan; Jayson Matthews, Michael Quinn, Joseph Hagan; Daniel Reynolds, Daniel Mimnagh, Cathal McCabe. Subs - Mark Hughes for Masterson half-time, Dylan Farrell for McCabe 46m, Ruairi Harkin for Fox 60m, Darragh Finlass for Hughes, Daire Duggan for Kiernan both 70m.

Referee - Niall Cullen (Fermanagh); linesmen - Jerome Henry (Mayo), Thomas Murphy (Galway).