Meath produced an impressive display against Down at Croke Park to secure their second Christy Ring Cup crown in the space of four seasons.
Jack Regan and Adam Gannon were two of the Royals’ best performers on the day – amassing a combined haul of the 2-12 for the victors, who now move forward to the Joe McDonagh Cup for 2020.
Barry Slevin, Regan, Gannon and Damien Healy all found the target during the early exchanges to give Nick Fitzgerald’s outfit a powerful platform and this was supplemented by a superb Gannon goal on 13 minutes.
Regan bolstered his own tally with a ’65’, before Danny Toner finally opened the Ulster men’s account at the beginning of the second-quarter. While Meath subsequently stretched 10 points in front through Slevin, Regan and wing-back Shane Brennan, the Mournesiders announced their arrival with a stunning end to the opening period.
Five points without reply courtesy of Toner, Marc Fisher, Paul Sheehan (two) and Oisin McManus provided initial signs of encouragement and they sensationally wiped out their deficit with goals from Sheehan (penalty) and Daithi Sands.
Despite receiving these hammer blows, there was enough time for Meath to regain the lead (1-12 to 2-8) in time for the interval – Regan posting his fifth point of the half.
The introduction of Nicholas Potterton sparked fresh life into the Royals’ challenge and he rattled the Down net on the restart to reinforce their authority on the proceedings.
Gannon continued to cause havoc inside the Down full-back line and he claimed his second goal of the contest in the 45th-minute. Having let a sizeable opening period advantage slip from the grasp, Meath knew they couldn’t afford to rest on their laurels.
Down did respond with unanswered points by Sheehan (two) and Eoghan Sands, only for Potterton, Alan Douglas and Regan (two) to do likewise at the opposite end. This left Ronan Sheehan’s side with too much ground to cover and the 69th-minute dismissal of Fisher served to compound their woes.
Matching Potterton’s efforts at the beginning of the half, another Meath substitute – Callum O’Sullivan – snatched a stoppage-time goal to cap off a memorable day for Meath.
Meath: Shane McGann; Ger Murphy, Darragh Kelly, Shane Whitty; Shane Brennan (0-01), Keith Keoghan, James Kelly; Sean Geraghty, Cathal McCabe; Damien Healy (0-01), Barry Slevin (0-02), Jack Regan (0-09, 0-04 frees, 0-03 ’65’); Gavin McGowan, Alan Douglas (0-01), Adam Gannon (2-03).
Subs: Nicholas Potterton (1-01) for Slevin (h-t); Joey Keena (0-01) for McGowan, Stephen Morris for Kelly (both 50); Callum O’Sullivan (1-00) for Gannon (61); Colm O Mealoid for Douglas (70).
Down: Stephen Keith; Tom Murray, Caolan Taggart, Darragh Mallon; Marc Fisher (0-02), John McManus, Matthew Conlan; Phelim Savage, Liam Savage; Danny Toner (0-02), Paul Sheehan (1-08, 1-00 pen, 0-06 frees, 0-01 ’65’), Tim Prenter; Daithi Sands (1-01), Eoghan Sands (0-01), Oisin McManus (0-01).
Subs: Mark Patterson for Murray (h-t); Conor O’Prey for Prenter (42); Ronan Blair for McManus (61), Ryan McCusker for Sheehan (65).
Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin).