Scoring 1-18 from play and with 10 different players getting on the scoresheet Meath advanced to an O'Byrne Cup semi-final clash with Dublin following a 1-20 to 1-13 victory over hosts Wexford at St Patrick’s Park Enniscorthy this afternoon.
Needing a win to be sure of their last four spot, Meath were always in command and produced several passages of outstanding, constructive and incisive football which Wexford couldn’t handle.
It might have been different if Wexford hadn't had a 26th minute goal from John Turbitt disallowed after they exceeded the three handpass limit in the build up to the strike. That goal would have given the hosts a two-point lead, but in reality they were a long way second best.
Meath had a handpass infraction against them with 30 seconds of the start, but that was a very rare error as Niall Kane kicked two fine scores to give Meath the lead in a contest they never trailed in.
Mickey Newman had a great goal chance well saved in the ninth minute, but Wexford were dangerous in the early stages with Barry Dardis marking his first start between the posts by making a fine stop to deny Jonathan Bealin.
Bealin did get Wexford off the mark in the 12th minute from a free, but two minutes later Thomas O'Reilly restored Meath's two-point cushion.
Points from Turbitt and Bealin either side of a Bryan Menton score closed the gap to 0-3 to 0-4 before Wexford had their goal disallowed.
Wexford did manage to draw level with scores from Niall Hughes and Bealin (free) after a superb score from Darragh Campion, but it was Meath who finished the half on the front foot with points from Newman (two), Adam Flanagan and Campion securing a 0-9 to 0-5 interval lead.
Meath extended their lead to six points with three of the first four scores after the resumption coming from O'Reilly, Campion and Newman in response to a point from Cathal Devereux for the hosts – and they maintained that advantage as Graham Reilly, Newman and O'Reilly traded scores with Kevin O'Grady (two) and Devereux to make it 0-15 to 0-9 with 15 minutes remaining.
Then came the goal that put the issue beyond doubt and it was a thing of beauty. Outstanding work from James McEntee, Niall Hickey and Gavin McCoy released Sean Tobin and he finished emphatically to the roof of the net.
Turbitt and O'Reilly exchanged points, as did Eoghan Nolan and Mickey Burke as Meath maintained their nine-point advantage heading into the final minutes.
Menton fisted over to put 10 points between the sides with six minutes remaining before Wexford hit 1-2 in quick succession with Devereux and Nolan kicking points before Donal Shanley capitalised on a rare error from Dardis and lobbed the goalkeeper from distance for a consolation goal.
Meath did have the last say with McEntee getting a point before Tobin converted a free, just Meath's second of the game, after Gavin Sheehan was sin-binned for crudely hauling down O'Reilly.
Meath – Barry Dardis; Seamus Lavin, Thomas McGovern, Ronan Ryan; Gavin McCoy, Donal Keogan, Niall Kane (0-2); Bryan Menton (0-2), Adam Flanagan (0-1); Ethan Devine, Darragh Campion (0-3), Niall Hickey; Ben Brennan, Michael Newman (0-4 one free), Thomas O’Reilly (0-4). Subs – Graham Reilly (0-1) for Devine half-time, Eoin Lynch for McGovern 40mins, James McEntee (0-1) for Campion, Sean Tobin (1-1 one free) for Brennan both 46m, Mickey Burke (0-1) for Hickey 58m, James Conlon for Newman 60m.
Wexford - Matt Doyle; Martin O'Connor, Gavin Sheehan, Conor Carty; Glen Malone, Shane Doyle, Tiarnan Rossiter; Barry O'Connor, Niall Hughes (0-1); Conor Devitt, Jonathan Bealin (0-3 two frees), Robert Frayne; Paul Curtis, Kevin O'Grady (0-2), John Tubritt (0-2). Subs – Cathal Devereux (0-3 one free), Eoghan Nolan (0-2), Donal Shanley (1-0).
Referee - John Hickey (Carlow).