On an atrocious evening for football Meath produced a very poor performance as they were comprehensively beaten 1-3 to 2-12 by an impressive Down side in the second round of the Leo Murphy u-20 Development FL at Pairc Tailteann this evening.
The young Royals never got to grips with the constant rain, slippery conditions and wet ball, while Down adapted brilliantly and produced many passages of excellent football to score a comprehensive victory.
The fact that Meath managed just one score from play, a brilliant goal from Conor Frayne in the 11th minute sums up their disappointing evening as they also finished with 14 players following the 50th minute dismissal of Eoin Harkin for a second yellow card offence.
Trailing 1-2 to 2-7 at the break, Meath did have three gilt-edged goal chances after the resumption, but they hit the woodword and blazed wide twice, while Sean Brennan was also forced into two fine saves to keep Down's goal tally at just two.
The pacy, powerful Down side had Meath on the back foot from the off, but it was still the hosts who kicked the first three wides of the game before Frayne converted a free after Saran O Fionnagain was fouled to open the scoring.
Daithi McGowan had a great goal chance cleared off the line by Peter Fegan 30 seconds later and from that let-off Down got on top again with a superb run from John McGeough ending with the Carryduff man finishing brilliantly to the bottom corner.
That lead lasted less than a minute as Daragh Nolan's knock down was excellently gathered by Conor Frayne and the Summerhill man produced a beautiful pick up before rounding the goalkeeper and planting the ball in the net to make it 1-1 to 1-0.
That goal only sparked Down to a greater effort and they dominated the remainder of the half with Seamus Loughran (two, one free) and Ross Carr kicking points before a rare error by Sean Brennan gifted Aaron Devlin a tap in goal to make it 2-3 to 1-1 in the 18th minute.
Down continued to run Meath ragged with Ryan McAvoy adding a fine score before Devlin kicked a point to make it 2-5 to 1-1.
Another mistake by Brennan saw the Dunderry man pick up a rolling free off the ground and Kerr converted the simple free.
Brennan redeemed himself with an excellent save to deny McGeough a second goal and in the final minute of the half Frayne and Loughran traded frees to give the Down side a 2-7 to 1-2 interval lead.
Two minutes after the restart Connell Ahearne's stinging drive rattled the crossbar, but an example of Down's greater composure saw the outstanding Kerr stretch Down's lead.
Conor Farrelly hit the upright with a point attempt before Frayne closed Meath's account from his third free with 28 minutes of play still left.
Frayne did blast another goal chance wide, while Jordan Morris did likewise from slightly further out. Dean Rice added another point to Down's tally before Harkin's dismissal and while Meath struggled to make an impact with 15 men, they could hardly get their hands on the ball with 14.
Down closed at their ease with Kerr closing the scoring with the last three points, two frees, on a wet, dreary night for Meath.
Meath – Conor Frayne 1-3 three frees.
Down – Liam Kerr 0-5 three frees; Aaron Devlin 1-1; John McGeough 1-0; Seamus Loughran 0-2 one free; Ryan McAvoy 0-1; Ross Carr 0-1; Dean Rice 0-1;
Meath – Sean Brennan; Harry O'Higgins, Robbie Clarke, James O'Hare; Shane Gibney, Eoin Harkin, Oisin Martyn; Cian Swaine, Daithi McGowan; Connell Ahearne, Jordan Morris, John Keane; Daragh Nolan, Conor Frayne, Saran O Fionnagain. Subs – Conor Farrelly for Gibney half-time, Luke Kelly for Nolan 41 mins, Adam Kelly for Frayne, Niall Smullen for McGowan both 60m. Black card – J Keane (replaced by McGowan 61m).
Down – Jack Hazard; Peter Fegan, Finn McIlroy, Brendan Gallen; John McGeough, Ruairi MacCrickard, Conor Clarke; Liam Middleton, Ross Carr; Ryan McAvoy, Declan McClements, Ruairi McCormack; aaron Devlin, Liam Kerr, Seamus Loughran. Subs – Cathal Gorman for Loughran half-time, Conor MacCrickard for Devlin, Ardan McAvoy for Clarke both 37m, Dean Rice for Middleton 45m, Malachi McAvoy for R McAvoy 60m, Reece Martin for Fegan 61m.
Referee – Maggie Farrelly (Cavan).