When Kildalkey man Ryan Byas sent over a sensational sideline puck two minutes in to stoppage time it looked like he had secured a one point win for Meath in the Peadar Ó Liatháin Cup Final in Navan today, writes Ruth Chambers.
Peadar Ó Liatháin Cup Final
That wasn’t the case though. They was utter heartbreak to come for the young Meath men. From the puck out Down, through Francis Caldwell broke Royal hearts when he fired past Jack Fagan in the Meath goal to give the visitors a two point lead and ultimately the title. The Mourne men celebrated, while Sean Callanan’s charges left the field dejected.
This was a fiercely fought final encounter in Pairc Tailteann on Sunday. The sides were level on no less than ten occasions. Nip/tuck; to and fro as the teams went in search of an early Christmas gift.
Down came in to the game after breezing through a semi final against neighbours Louth, while Meath got the better of Wicklow in the penultimate round in Aughrim the previous weekend. Unfortunately the Royals had to start without the services of Kildalkey man Paddy Barnwell, who failed a late fitness test. He was replaced in the starting XV by Kilmessan’s Kristopher O’Gorman, while Down started as listed.
The team from the north started well despite playing against the wind and went 0-2 to 0-0 ahead after two minutes. However, Meath responded well with Ryan Byas firing over from 40 metres out, while Joey Cole converted a free to restore parity after captain Justin Coyne was impeded.
Down’s tackling a blocking was relentless, while Meath were guilty of missing some score able chances during the opening 30 minute period.
Nonetheless the Royals nudged themselves in front by the eleventh minute thanks to a point from Trim man Joey Cole. He split the posts after taking possession of a Justin Coyne free.
Meath should have had a goal just before the first half water break but Rory Fagan’s effort went just wide after Shaun Donnelly’s sideline cut from the right. The first quarter ended all square at 0-3 to 0-3.
On the resumption Joey Cole raised a white flag from a free but two without reply for the visitors but them in front by the 23rd minute. That lead only lasted a short while however, because down the other end two points, courtesy of Rory Fagan and Byas ensured Meath led by the minimum as half time approached.
Before the break St Peter’s Dunboyne man Simon Cunningham scored a peach of a point from out on the left wing, Meath’s third on the trot, to give his side a 0-7 to 0-5 advantage. Byas scored a fourth without response in the 29th minute but a screamer of a point from Oisin Coulter from a near impossible angle ensured Down only trailed by two (0-8 to 0-6) at the interlude.
After the turnaround Down quickly levelled proceedings with two points in a minute but a free from Joey Cole edged the home side back in front (0-9 to 0-8) soon after.
Callanan’s charges could have been better in terms of taking their chances and heading in to the last quarter Down led 0-11 to 0-9.
Jack Meagher steadied the ship somewhat with a 45th minute point and when Joey Cole’s short free found Meagher, he offloaded possession to Matthew Cully who delivered the goods and Meath’s 11tth score of the day. Indeed Cully, who came on for Josh Harris early in the second half, made a real difference to the Meath attack and looked dangerous any time he was in possession.
Meagher again raised a while flag on 47 minutes and when Cully did likewise soon after the young Royals led 0-13 to 0-12 with ten left to play. But as always, Down just wouldn’t go away and they were back on level terms thanks to a point from a Francis Caldwell free and when substitute Sean Milligan fired over they led by one.
The teams just couldn’t shake each other. Whatever Meath did one end, Down had an answer down the other end. By the 58th minute it was still deadlocked and then came the late drama.
Ryan Byas, out on the right, stood over a sideline puck and when he connected and put it over the bar the young Kildalkey man gave a fist to the air. There was already two minutes of stoppage time played; Byas wasn’t the only Meath man punching the air.
From the puck out came heartbreak though. Francis Caldwell pounced for the only goal of the game and such was this encounter, the team that nabbed a goal was always going to take the title.
Meath didn’t get a chance to try and cancel out Caldwell’s three pointer; the whistle went. The Peadar Ó Liatháin Cup went north. The Meath crew went home shell shocked.
SCORERS: Meath – Joey Cole 0-4 (2f), Ryan Byas 0-4 (1 sideline), Matthew Cully 0-3, Jack Meagher 0-2, Rory Fagan 0-1, Simon Cunningham 0-1 (!f).
Down – Tom McGrattan 0-5 (4f), Francis Caldwell 1-2 (1f), Oisin Coulter 0-3, Michael Dorrian 0-2, Finn Turpin 0-1, Sean Milligan 0-1.
MEATH: Jack Fagan; Robert Ennis, Harry Cottrell, Evan Cole; Peter Connolly, Justin Coyne, Kristopher O’Gorman; Joey Cole, Eoghan Grehan; Ryan Byas, Jack Meager, Shaun Donnelly; Rory Fagan, Josh Harris, Simon Cunningham. SUBS: Matthew Cully replaced J Harris 37 mins, Eoghan McCormack replaced S Donnelly 41 mins, Dennis Darby replaced S Cunningham 55 mins
DOWN: Pearse Smyth; James Higgins, Deaglan Mallon, Nathan Kelly; Finn Turpin, Ciaran Savage, Fionn McFall; Ryan O’Neill, James Duggan; Michael Dorrian, Tom McGrattan, Rory Corcoran; Francis Caldwell, James Clarke, Oisin Coulter. SUBS: Sean Milligan replaced R O’Neill 39 mins, Fergus McManus replaced T McGrattan 55 mins,
REFEREE: Caymon Flynn (Westmeath).