Harry Healy lofts the ball forward seeking to get some return for Meath during today's encounter at Pairc Tailteann. PHOTO: GERRY SHANAHAN/CYBERIMAGES.NET

Meath have no answer to Down's power play

Young Royals bring curtain down on disappointing campaign



After a Leinster MFC campaign that contained few highs, Meath dropped out of the All-Ireland MFC Tier 3 when they shipped a heavy defeat inflicted by Down in the preliminary quarter-final stage at Pairc Taillteann today.

The fact that this was a 'Tier 3' encounter gives a hint of just how forgettable this campaign has turned out to be for the young Royals who endured two early setbacks against Kildare and Louth in the Leinster MFC, defeated Westmeath before succumbing to Wexford - a sequence of results that landed them in what is effectively a competition set up just to give teams games.

A laudable aspiration in one sense but you would have to wonder about the merits of prolonging a championship where a team is already given a number of chances to progress.

The disappointing nature of this forgettable sequence of results for Meath was reflected in this game with the boys in green and gold unable to get the better of a Down side who looked sharper, stronger for most of the match.

What Meath didn't lack was a willingness to work and battle for every ball and it was only this approach that prevented them from losing by an even bigger margin. They also, from time to time, stitched together some fine, incisive moves but invariably they came to nought.

The home team struggled to deal with a lively, all-action Down attack while at the other end they found it difficult to break trough a well-structured defensive system set up by the Ulster side. The combination of such factors conspired to ensure this game - played before a sparse attendance that included just handful of Meath supporters - was only going to end one way.

The kind of problems faced by Meath was seen in the way they were unable to muster a point from play in the opening half. In mitigation they did face into a stiff breeze throughout a half that ended with Down leading, 0-9 to 0-2.

Both Meath's two scores came from placed balls with Cormac Smith calmly pointing from a free early on and Jamis Norris leaving his goalkeeping duties to step up and direct the ball between the posts from a '45.' Even when they were reduced to 14 for a time after Oisin Murphy was shown a black card, Down remained the better side.

In the second-half Meath posed a much greater threat, at least for a time, with Smith, Cormac Nugent and Even Kelly firing over neatly worked, well executed scores from play, especially Smith's effort.

Nugent also tagged on points from free but all the while Down continued to steadily add to their tally - and the home side seemed powerless to stop them. Meath did have goal chances over the hour but couldn't take them with Down 'keeper Callum Travers denying Nugent, Kelly and Ciaran Sheridan with outstanding saves.

The score that effectively decided this lobsided contest arrived on 43 minutes when Darragh Poland powered through the ample space in the home battlements to fire the ball to the net.

Charlie McGrath added another goal soon after to really put the tin hat on things. Down were only prevented by netting a few more goals by the sharpness of Meath 'keeper Norris and the decision of the players in black and red to take points instead.

To their credit the young Meath men battled to the end with Sean McQuillan, Conal Diggins, Thomas Sheridan, Smith and Nugent among those who showed plenty of heart.

Yet it must have been great relief to the home players to hear the final whistle that brought the end to a forgettable, disappointing campaign.


Down - Liam Blaney 0-5 two frees; Paul McGovern 0-4 two 45s; Darragh Poland 1-1; Charlie McGrath 1-1; Barra McEvloy 0-3; Charlie McGrath 1-0; Eoin McCaffrey 0-1; Danny McLogan 0-1.

Meath - Cormac Nugent 0-4 three frees; Cormac Smith 0-2 one free; Evan Kelly 0-1; Jamie Norris 0-1 '45'.


Down - Callum Travers; Shane McPartland, Oisin Murphy, Aaron McClelland; Cormac Small, Jon Rogers, Lorcan Lynch; Daniel McKernan, Liam Blaney; Conor Ward, Darragh Poland, Paul McGovern; Daniel Carr, Barry McEvoy, Caolan McGinley. Subs - Charlie McGrath for Carr, Adam McCann-Gibbs for Ward both 42m, James O'Hanlon for McGovern 51m, Danny McLogan for McEvoy 55m.

Meath - James Norris; Cillian Yore, Sean McLoughlin, Sean McQuillan; Cian Tobin, Thomas Sheridan, Conal Diggins; Cathal Barron, Oran Meade; Eoin McCrudden, Cormac Smith, Harry Healy; Evan Kelly, Cormac Nugent, Pat Crowley. Subs - Ciaran Sheridan for Crawley, Charles McCarthy for Barron both half-time, Aidan Roche for Smith 43m, Patrick Yourell for Meade 45m, Adam Ducie for McLoughlin 48m, Ciaran Sheridan for McCrudden 30m.

Referee - Enda Mallon (Armagh).

Down goalkeeper Callum Travers saves superbly from Meath's Cormac Smith.