Ultimately this proved to be a particularly satisfying success for Donegal.
The blend of established and emerging Donegal footballers, who were eight points down early on, came storming back at GAA headquarters to secure silverware.
Having performed with such ambition initially Meath were left reflecting on what might have been as Donegal dictated the agenda in the dying embers.
Meath were highly impressive throughout the first half as Andy McEntee’s improving team accumulated a 1-10 to 0-8 interval lead.
There was so much to admire about how the Royals thundered into the contest with Mickey Newman causing Donegal significant bother.
Newman wasn’t the only Meath forward to shine with Thomas O’Reilly plundering a goal, while the dash of Cillian O’Sullivan and Bryan McMahon was evident too.
It meant that Donegal were in plenty of bother initially when Meath raced into a 1-6 to 0-1 advantage by the 13th minute.
The goal arrived in the 10th minute with Newman and Barry Dardis combining to release O’Reilly, who summoned a cool and composed finish.
That major put Meath six clear with further points from Ben Brennan and Newman guiding Meath into a commanding position.
Donegal did respond reeling off four points without reply from Oisin Gallen, Jamie Brennan (2), and Niall O’Donnell.
From then until the break it remained very interesting with Donegal trimming the deficit to three before sweet scores from O’Sullivan and O’Reilly ensured Meath departed five in the ascendancy.
McEntee must have been satisfied with Meath’s conversion rate of 1-10 from 16 shots illustrating how primed the Royals were for this contest.
After the restart, though, Donegal really started to pose questions with Michael Murphy carrying a potent threat.
Murphy was prominent in the Donegal comeback mission, while the promising Gallen also contributed handsomely for Declan Bonner’s charges.
By the 56th minute Donegal had the gap cut down to a point 1-14 to 0-16 following a smart burst which included splendid scores from Murphy, O’Donnell, and Gallen.
Inevitably Gallen and Murphy were instrumental in the creation of Brennan’s delightful 58th minute goal which made the Meath net dance.
Suddenly Meath were trailing by two as Donegal blasted a reminder of their considerable ability. In injury time Meath’s Shane Gallagher was sent off for a second bookable offence and Murphy expertly slotted the resultant free.
Valuable lessons were learned by Meath, but Donegal had the guile to survive and subsequently thrive on the grand Croke Park stage.
Scorers for Donegal: Michael Murphy 0-7 (5fs, 2ms), Jamie Brennan 1-2, Oisin Gallen 0-4, Niall O’Donnell and Jason McGee 0-2 each.
Scorers for Meath: Mickey Newman 0-5 (2fs, 1m), Thomas O’Reilly 1-1, Bryan McMahon and Cillian O’Sullivan (1f) 0-2 each, Ben Brennan, Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee, Graham Reilly, and Barry Dardis (45) 0-1 each.
DONEGAL: Shaun Patton; Stephen McMenamin, Brendan McCole, Paddy McGrath; Daire O’Baoill, Leo McLoone, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Hugh McFadden, Jason McGee; Niall O’Donnell, Ryan McHugh, Caolan McGonagle; Oisin Gallen, Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan.
Subs: Neil McGee for McCole (14), Eamonn Doherty for McLoone (HT), Michael Langan for McGonagle (44), Eoin McHugh for O’Baoill (54), Frank McGlynn for R McHugh (70).
MEATH: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; James McEntee, Donal Keogan, Ronan Ryan; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Cillian O’Sullivan, Ben Brennan, Bryan McMahon; Barry Dardis, Mickey Newman, Thomas O’Reilly.
Subs: Graham Reilly for McMahon (35), Darragh Campion for Brennan (43), James Conlon for O’Reilly (65), Gavin McCoy for S McEntee (67).
REFEREE: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).
Allianz National Football League - Rd. 7
Allianz Football League Roinn 2
Meath 2-12 0-11 Fermanagh
Allianz FL D2: Meath secure promotion
Allianz Football League Division Two
MEATH 2-12 FERMANAGH 0-11
By Paul Keane at Pairc Tailteann, Navan
James McEntee and Barry Dardis fired the vital goals as Meath claimed victory in Navan and in the process secured their place in Division 1 of the Allianz football league for 2020.
The Royal County haven’t competed in the top flight since 2006 when they were relegated from the old 1B group.
They could afford to lose to Fermanagh and still go up and while they endured a shaky start they quickly found their groove and turned in a powerful performance to record their sixth victory of the campaign.
Man of the Match McEntee helped himself to 1-1, the same tally as Dardis while Cillian O’Sullivan and Mickey Newman impressed up front for the hosts.
The seven-point win secures Meath a Division 2 final clash at Croke Park next weekend against Donegal and supporters are already looking forward to the Championship with optimism.
Meath came into the game knowing they could lose by anything up to nine points and still progress to Division 1.
That safety net perhaps explained their early lethargy as Fermanagh, with a stiff wind behind them, struck four points in the first four minutes.
In fact, the Ernesiders could have wiped out that nine-point cushion in the opening 10 minutes when they’d registered five wides along with those four points.
Fermanagh, last in Division 1 in 2007 and also in the promotion picture at the beginning of the afternoon, racked up 11 wides in total in the first-half and will kick themselves for not capitalising on the wind advantage.
Meath went in at the break leading 1-4 to 0-6 when the visitors really should have been ahead.
Meath only scored one point in the opening 23 minutes, a 16th minute effort from O’Sullivan.
But the hosts, roared on by a large and vocal home support, finished the half strong with Dardis netting in the 29th minute.
It was his third goal in four games having previously raised green flags as a sub against Cork and Kildare.
O’Sullivan and Newman added points before the interval to leave Meath in pole position and looking forward to playing with the strong wind in the second-half.
It was a tough task for Fermanagh who briefly tied up the game after the restart before falling well behind as Meath registered 1-4 without reply to take firm control of the game.
McEntee grabbed his goal in the 47th minute after great work in the buildup by Bryan McMahon who made space for himself with a clever burst of pace.
It put Meath 2-8 to 0-7 clear and they closed out the game professionally with points from O’Sullivan, Newman and sub James Conlon to ensure there were never any nervous moments late on.
Scorers for Meath: Barry Dardis 1-1, James McEntee 1-1, Cillian O’Sullivan 0-4 (1f), Mickey Newman 0-3 (0-1f), Ben Brennan 0-1 (0-1f), Bryan Menton 0-1, James Conlon 0-1.
Scorers for Fermanagh: Ryan Jones 0-3, Ciaran Corrigan 0-2, Sean Quigley 0-2 (1f), Conall Jones 0-2, Ultan Kelm 0-1, Darragh McGurn 0-1 (f).
MEATH: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; James McEntee, Donal Keogan, Ronan Ryan; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Cillian O’Sullivan, Bryan McMahon, Ben Brennan; Thomas O’Reilly, Barry Dardis, Mickey Newman.
Subs: Graham Reilly for Brennan (h/t), Darragh Campion for McMahon (56), Adam Flanagan for Shane McEntee (62), Gavin McCoy for Gallagher (64), James Conlon for O’Reilly (65).
FERMANAGH: James McGrath; Lee Cullen, Kane Connor, Jonny Cassidy; Che Cullen, James McMahon, Ryan Lyons; Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Jones; Aidan Breen, Ultan Kelm, Ciaran Corrigan; Sean Quigley, Conall Jones, Declan McCusker.
Subs: Paul McCusker for Lyons (45), Daniel Teague for Kelm (49), Darragh McGurn for Conall Jones (56), Tom Clarke for Donnelly (58), Conor Magee for Quigley (58).
REFEREE: James Molloy (Galway).
Allianz National Football League - Rd. 7 Preview
Armagh v Cork, Athletic Grounds, 2pm
Donegal v Kildare, Ballyshannon, 2pm
Meath v Fermanagh, Pairc Tailteann, 2pm
Tipperary v Clare, Semple Stadium, 2pm.
Meath are in an very strong position at the top of Division Two with 10 points from six matches with Fermanagh and Donegal behind them on eight points each.
The Royals are guaranteed promotion if they can avoid a defeat to Fermanagh by 10 points or more at Navan thanks to their current very healthy scoring difference of +20.
If Fermanagh defeat Meath and Donegal defeat Kildare, then Meath, Donegal, and Fermanagh will all be on 10 points and the two teams with the best scoring difference progress to the Final.
Meath are very much in pole-position in this regard, but there’s not much between Fermanagh (+2) and Donegal (+5).
Kildare are still in with a decent chance of promotion too. They’ll go up if they can defeat Donegal in Ballyshannon and Meath beat Fermanagh in Navan.
At the other end of the table there’s a three-way relegation shoot-out between Munster rivals Clare, Tipperary and Cork who are all currently on three points each.
Clare and Tipperary play one another, so there’s a lot riding on that match. Clare will definitely stay up if they win because even if Cork beat Armagh and also finish on five points, the fact that they were beaten by Clare earlier in the campaign means they lose out on the head to head rule.
Put simply, Clare can relegate both Tipperary and Cork by beating Tipperary.
For Tipperary to stay up in Division Two they need to beat Clare and hope that Armagh can beat or draw with Cork.
Cork’s survival depends on the Rebels beating Armagh and Tipperary beating or drawing with Clare.
Armagh are the only team in Division Two with nothing to play for as they’re safe from relegation and can’t be promoted.
Armagh v Cork, Athletic Grounds, 2.0
Donegal v Kildare, Ballyshannon, 2.0
Meath v Fermanagh, Pairc Tailteann, 2.0
Tipperary v Clare, Semple Stadium, 2.0
Allianz National Football League - Round 6, Meath 1-12 Clare 1-07
Meath on cusp of top-flight promotion after victory over Clare
Sunday, 17 Mar 2019
By Seamus HayesMeath moved a step closer to division 1 football in 2020 when they turned in a strong second half performance to overcome Clare at Cusack park in Ennis this afternoon.It was a result that didn’t seem likely at half time when they were a little fortunate to lead by the minimum margin after playing with the aid of a strong wind.Clare enjoyed the better of the opening half exchanges but the Royal county side took over in the second half when they confined the home side to just three points, all of which came from frees.This win leaves Meath at the top of the league table, two points clear of Donegal and Fermanagh, who they play next week, and while it is still mathematically possible for them to lose out on promotion, it will be a big surprise given their scoring difference if such an outcome materialised.They made the better start in this afternoon’s contest and had 0-4 on the scoreboard after just six minutes. A further two minutes elapsed before Clare opened their account but from here on the home side dominated the opening half.
Clare took the lead six minutes from the half time whistle when Sean O’Donoghue found the net after being put through by Jamie Malone.
Meath rallied and landed the last two points of the half to lead by one, 0-8 to 1-4, at the interval.
With the advantage of a strong wind to come, Clare followers were confident of achieving victory heading into the second half. However, Meath had other ideas and they stepped up their performance considerably when play resumed.
The sides exchanged points in the opening five minutes but a further ten minutes elapsed before the next score which was a crucial one.
The introduction of Graham Reilly certainly made a difference. Within a minute of his arrival he had picked up a yellow card and scored his side’s goal, a score that rocked Clare’s challenge.
They followed the goal with three unanswered points to open a seven point lead. Clare battled on and had the last two points of the tie, scores that could yet prove crucial in their battle to avoid the drop to division 3.
Meath: A.Congan; S. Lavin, C. McGill, R. Ryan; J. Mc Entee, D. Keogan, S. Gallagher;B. Menton, S. McEntee; C. O’Sullivan (0-3), E. Devine, D. Campion (0-1); B. McMahon, M. Newman (0-4, f) T. O’Reilly (0-2).
Subs: B. Dardis (0-1) for S. McEntee (inj 10 mins); A. Flanagan for Devine; G. Reilly (1-0) for Campion; P. Harnan for McMahon; E. Lynch for O’Sullivan;
Clare: E.Tubridy; K. Harnett, C. Brennan, G. Kelly; S. O’Donoghue (1-0), A. Fitzgerald, D. Ryan; G Brennan, C. O’Connor; K.Malone, C. Cleary (0-5, frees), J. Malone; C. O’Dea, D. Tubridy (0-1, f), G. Cooney (0-1);
Subs: K. Sexton for K. Malone; S. Collins for Ryan; E, Courtney for Tubridy;
Referee: B. Tiernan, Dublin
Allianz Football League Roinn 2
Allianz Football League Division Two Preview
Sunday March 17
Clare v Meath, Cusack Park, 2.00pm
Clare and Meath both need to put points into the account so this should be a lively affair in Ennis.
With four victories from five games Andy McEntee’s Meath are in a healthy position ahead of the remaining two fixtures.
The Banner, though, want to avoid the drop ensuring Colm Collins will have his panel primed for this tussle.
Despite only accumulating three points Clare will feel that Division Two status can be retained, but an efficient display will be required.
Meath, brimful of confidence and momentum following the Kildare triumph, are striving to return to the top tier.
Improving Meath hoping to reach the next level
By Cian O’Connell
“Everybody has to look at the big picture here,” Andy McEntee explains when asked about just how important a step it would be to reclaim Allianz Football League Division One status.
McEntee is completely aware that a couple of demanding matches against Clare and Fermanagh loom, but getting Meath back dining at the top table remains the brief.
“For us to encourage young people in Meath to be playing Gaelic Football we need to be playing at the highest level,” McEntee adds.
“You have options out there for guys that maybe weren’t there in the past. So GAA has to compete with other sports for the attention of the younger people. We have to make sure that playing for Meath is an attractive proposition for young people. To do that we need to be playing at the highest level.”
Since taking the Meath managerial position McEntee has enjoyed some encouraging moments and endured harrowing losses. With four wins from five League games in 2019, though, hope and expectation is returning which is significant and McEntee accepts the past number of years important work is taking place in the underage grades.
“No, I think that is a fair comment,” McEntee replies. “We have a lot of good coaches and former players involved with all of the underage teams. We are starting to see a consistent level of preparation for all the underage teams.
“Ultimately that is what is going to give you a bigger pool of players coming up to senior level. I think when you see the likes of Ethan Devine and Darragh Campion coming through, young players like that it is a positive.
“They have come through a good system, they have done the work and preparation at underage with their coaches over the last number of years. I think that is hugely important.”
Ultimately it is one of the chief reasons McEntee feels Meath’s panel is the strongest since his arrival. “I think it probably is, but lads have put in three years of continuous work,” McEntee states. “I think physically we are starting to show some of the benefits of that. I think we are able for the physicality and the pace of games at this level.
“That doesn’t happen overnight so I think we probably are that little bit better equipped. I also think some of the younger players joining the panel have added strength and added a little bit of freshness to it so they have been very important for us this year.
“We are happy enough, we can’t complain because we’ve had five good enough performances. So it puts us in a good position and we are in control of our own destiny. That is as much as you can ask for.”
There was plenty of character exhibited during the victory over Kildare at Pairc Tailteann, a last gasp goal from a Barry Dardis penalty earning the spoils.
Such resilience is impressing the Meath faithful, who are beginning to believe in McEntee’s charges. “I think there probably is a bit of that, but Meath supporters have always had a great love for their team,” McEntee remarks.
“They have always wanted this and they have always been crying out for a team to support, to show some values that they can associate with really.
“I think the performances to date have shown that no matter what happens these guys are willing to go out, to put in a really good effort, a really honest effort. I think our supporters in general can relate to that and they can accept if we put in a good effort and don’t get a result like the night up in Donegal.
“There was a very positive reaction to the performance that night. So long as we do put in an honest effort I think our supporters in general would forgive us a lot of shortcomings.”
The manner in which Meath lost to Donegal was unfortunate, but the Royals’ response has been to chalk up three triumphs in a row.
“It is a game we arguably played our best in,” McEntee recalls. “We got nothing out of it, but having said that that is the way these things go. We’ve had a bit of bad luck that night, but maybe we’ve had the rub of the green since then. Maybe these things even themselves out in the end.”
So with Meath generating momentum is there any specific reason why the Royals are motoring smoothly in 2019? “It is hard to pinpoint any one thing,” McEntee answers.
“I think last year was ultimately disappointing for everybody in the League and in the Championship. Maybe guys just have had enough of not winning these games and are putting in a little bit extra. The attitude has always been decent. I suppose the harder you work the luckier you are likely to get. The lads have put in a decent shift so far this year and so far it seems to be paying off.”
Clare, who are intent on avoiding relegation, and Fermanagh, still heavily involved in the promotion race, provide the opposition in Meath’s remaining tussles. Division Two continues to supply thrills and spills. “Every game is huge and it is funny the way it is turning out this year,” McEntee admits.
“Last year and for the last couple of years 10 points would guarantee you promotion, but 10 points won’t guarantee you promotion this year. That is certainly my look on it, we have got to make sure we prepare properly for each game to make sure we get something out of both of them.
“Likewise the teams we are playing are in a similar boat. Everybody still has something to play for, whether it is promotion or to avoid relegation. I think that is what makes the League as good as it is really.”
Under McEntee Meath are doing their bit too and the rest of March promises to be revealing
Allianz Football League Roinn 2
Allianz National Football League Division 2, An Mhí v Cill Dara
Allianz FL D2: Late Meath goal earns victory
Allianz Football League Division Two
MEATH 1-9 KILDARE 1-8
By Ger McNally at Pairc Tailteann
Meath edged closer to Division One after an injury time Barry Dardis penalty gave them a win over local rivals Kildare in a crunch promotion encounter in Navan.
The game, played through driving rain and snow, was led by Kildare from the sixth minute after Ben McCormack’s goal until Dardis’ strike after Cian O’Neill’s team only scored one point in the second half.
Kildare’s cause wasn’t helped by three enforced substitutions due to injuries to McCormack, Eoin Doyle and Mark Donnellan. Clan O’Donoghue would have been added to that list in the last 10 minutes only that Kildare had made their five substitutions by then.
After early scores from Paddy Brophy, Neil Flynn and Jimmy Hyland, McCormack’s goal put Kildare 1-3 to 0-1 ahead.
Ben Brennan and Darragh Campion struck back for Andy McEntee’s team but even though Kildare went down to 14 men for a 10 minute spell after a black card shown to Mick O’Grady, Kildare were able to stretch their lead out to 1-7 to 0-5 by the half time break.
The second half was a very different affair as the home side pinned Kildare back into their own half. Brennan scored a free within 30 seconds of the half but it was 13 minutes before the same player scored the next point.
Flynn scored Kildare’s only second half point from a 50th minute free.
Meath almost found the net in the 51st minute but Donnellan made an outstanding save to deny Ronan Ryan, only to pick up an injury in doing so.
Dardis, in the 61st minute, and Cillian O’Sullivan, in the 66th minute, scored to get Meath back to within two points but it looked like Kildare would hold on as the game moved into injury time.
They were caught out though by a long ball and although Conor McGill couldn’t collect the ball, he diverted it into the path of Shane McEntee who was trippped by Keith Cribbin before he could turn the ball home. Dardis stepped up to take the penalty and if he was feeling any nerves at such an important kick he didn’t show them as he smashed the ball into the roof of the Kildare net.
Kildare pushed hard in the remaining minutes of injury time but couldn’t find a way through and it’s Meath who take a giant leap towards Division 1.
Scorers for Meath: B Dardis 1-1 (1-0pen, 0-1f), B Brennan 0-4 (2fs), M Newman 0-2 (1f), D Campion 0-1, C O’Sullivan 0-1.
Scorers for Kildare: B McCormack 1-1, N Flynn 0-3 (1f), Jimmy Hyland 0-1 (m), T Moolick 0-1, K Cribbin 0-1, P Brophy 0-1.
MEATH: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Ronan Ryan; Gavin McCoy, Donal Keogan, Shane Gallagher; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Cillian O’Sullivan, Ben Brennan, Darragh Campion; Bryan McMahon, Michael Newman, Thomas O’Reilly.
Subs: Graham Reilly for McMahon (HT), Niall Kane for McCoy (HT), Barry Dardis for Newman (50), Padraig Harnan for Campion (60), Mickey Burke for Brennan (60).
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Mark Dempsey, Mick O’Grady David Hyland; Cian O’Donoghue Eoin Doyle, Peter Kelly; Kevin Feely, Tommy Moolick; Paddy Brophy, Fergal Conway, Keith Cribbin; Neil Flynn, Ben McCormack, Jimmy Hyland.
Subs: Adam Tyrrell for McCormack (24), Paul Cribbin for Brophy (50), James Murray for Eoin Doyle (52), Kevin O’Callaghan for Conway (55), Aaron O’Neill for Donnellan (55).
REFEREE: Derek O’Mahoney, Tipperary
3 May 2019; Michael Burke during a Meath Football Squad Portraits session at Fota Island Resort, Cork. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
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Rúairí Ó Coileán
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Donal Curtis, selector
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John Coghlan, strength and conditioning coach
Niall O'Carroll, mental skills coach
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Gerry Cooney, selector
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Shane O'Brien, statistics and analysis
Paddy Doyle, kitman
Peter Nolan, performance coach
Colm Nally, coach
Dualtach Mac Colgáin, team doctor
Martin Regan, masseur
Michael Doherty, logistics manager
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Damien O'Sullivan, nutritionist
3 May 2019; Ben Brennan during a Meath Football Squad Portraits session at Fota Island Resort, Cork. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Mark Geraghty, physio
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Liam Hogan, physio
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