Meath's Eoin McCrudden surveys his options as Westmeath's James McHugh closes in during today's Leinster MFC clash at Mullingar. PHOTO: DAVID MULLEN/WWW.CYBERIMAGES.NET.

Cowley's young guns stay in the race

Meath defeat Westmeath in 'must-win' encounter



When the chips were down, the need was at its greatest, the pressure was on, the end within sight - take your pick - Meath conjured up the victory they so badly needed in the Leinster MFC today.

Joe Cowley's young Royals have, in the provincial championship so far, resembled a runner in the Grand National who hits a couple of fences hard, stumbles a few times, looks down and out yet who, despite everything, shrugs off the setbacks and stays in the race.

During their recent defeats to Kildare and Louth, Meath clearly lost their way and there were times in this scrappy, disjointed encounter at Cusack Park, Mullingar today when they struggled to impose themselves but they kept at it and won out in the end to earn a preliminary quarter-final clash with Wexford. They simply had to win and they did.

That says a lot about the tenacity and spirit in their ranks. Who knows this could be the start of a run that might carry this Meath team far - a lot further than appeared likely after those potentially morale-crushing defeats to the Lilywhites and the Wee County.

In this contest - even when they faced into a very strong wind in the opening half - Meath looked the better side. They were physically more imposing, more cohesive and threatening in their attacks, more clinical in taking the chances that came their way.

The fact that they trailed by only 0-2 to 0-4 at the interval indicated how Meath handled the elements and their opponents well in that opening moiety, cleverly passing the ball around, holding onto possession, not allowing the home side the opportunity to utilise the conditions and build up a significant lead.

In the second-half Cowley's Colts upped the tempo and the heat and reaped a rich harvest of scores to deservedly win with Cormac Nugent showing the way on the scoring front.

The O'Mahonys youngster notched six points, three cleverly taken from play when he made full use of the elements to shoot over from distance. Evan Kelly, Cian Tobin, Cormac Smith, Cathal Barron, and Pat Crawley were others to help themselves to points over the hour.

Kelly brilliantly netted Meath's opening goal on 46 minutes. It was the third act in a madcap series of events that unfolded in quick succession. Meath launched an attack and Crawley passed to Nugent who was one-on-one with the Westmeath goalkeeper Paul Keating. We waited for the net to bulge. Somehow Keating got a block in with his leg. The ball was moved upfield and Westmeath's William Scahill was in on Meath's custodian Cian Murphy. Again a goal looked a certain outcome but Murphy saved the day, or at least Meath on this occasion.

Straight away Meath moved the ball downfield with Cian Tobin releasing Kelly close to the Westmeath posts. This time he made no mistake slotting the ball to the net. The visitors led 1-8 to 0-5 and were well on their way to getting the win they so badly needed.

Their second goal arrived just four minutes later and put the issue beyond doubt. Thomas Sheridan, who had a fine game, was alive to the possibilities. He intercepted a pass, quickly off-loaded to the effective Kelly. He, in turn, passed to Crawley who skilfully tucked the ball home.

At 2-9 to 0-5 Meath's championship-resuing victory was assured.

Westmeath did cause Meath plenty of late problems and should have scored more than the one goal they did get as they frantically pushed forward. James McHugh looked certain to score but somehow a Meath defender made a goal-line block in a mad goalmouth scramble.

McHugh did get a goal but it proved no more than a consolation.

This game was not a classic by any means. That's irrelevant as far as Meath are concerned. They won and are still in the race, despite all. That's what matters.


Meath - Cormac Nugent 0-6 three frees; Evan Kelly 1-2; Pat Crawley 1-0; Cian Tobin 0-1; Cormac Smith 0-1; Cathal Barron 0-1.

Westmeath - James McHugh 1-2; Daragh Lough 0-2 one free; Mikey Weir 0-1; Daire O'Brien 0-1; William Scahill 0-1.


Meath - Cian Murphy; Cillian Yore, Sean McLoughlin, Thomas Sheridan; Cian Tobin, Cormac Smith, Eoin McCrudden; Cathal Barron, Ciaran Sheridan; Conal Diggins, Evan Kelly, Cormac Nugent; Sean McQuillan, Jack Doyle, Pat Crawley. Subs - Harry Healy for McCrudden 43m, Charles McCarthy for Doyle 48m Andrew Brien for C Sheridan 52m, Conor Black for Barron 56m, Oran Meade for Tobin 58m, Adam Ducie for Crawley 60m.

Westmeath - Paul Keating; Daire Burke, Cian Whitney, Ben Sheerin; Ty Masterson, Mikey Weir, Jack Carroll; Daire O'Brien, Christoir Ormsby; Cormac McKeogh, Michael Moloney, Ryan Flynn; William Scahill, Daragh Lough, James McHugh. Subs - Andrew Henson for Moloney half-time, Adam Smyth for Carroll, Peadar Glennon for McKeogh both 36m, Ben McNamee for Sheerin 42m.

Referee - Dan Stynes.

Cormac Nugent looks towards the Westmeath posts. He chalked up six points Meath's victory. Photo by David Mullen