WICKLOW sealed promotion for the first time in 30 years after victory in a thrilling winner-takes-all shootout with Clare in Aughrim yesterday booked a place in Division 3 and a spot in the divisional final against Fermanagh.
In a game of fluctuating fortunes, Clare pushed the home side all the way and in the end, it was the marvellous shooting skills of corner-forward Tony Hannon that killed off the visitors.
Despite the recent speculation about his future, Meath manager Seamus McEnaney was an interested spectator as he continues to prepare for the Royals' Leinster championship opener against Wicklow on May 27 and saw Clare threaten to spoil the Garden party when they drew level at 1-12 apiece with just nine minutes left.
Clare might have sneaked a goal at this vital juncture, but the move broke down and the advantage swung back in favour of Wicklow in the closing nine minutes of a cliffhanger.
Hannon delivered the knock-out blows with two late points, ensuring that Harry Murphy achieved his objective of gaining promotion from the basement division for Wicklow in his first year in charge.
Wicklow had a dream start with wing-forward Darren Hayden blasting to the net seconds in, sparking a flurry of scores for the home side.
With Gary Brennan having a big impact at midfield, Clare reduced Wicklow's lead to a point (1-4 to 0-6) after 31 minutes, but the home side finished the half with a flourish to lead 1-8 to 0-6 at the break.
Clare were then reduced to 14 men with the sending off of their full-back Shane McNeilies on a second yellow card.
As often happens, the loss of a player steels a side and Clare took control of the play and a goal by corner-forward Rory Donnelly after Wicklow had spilled possession further outfield cut the margin to two, 1-10 to 1-8, and put the game back in the melting pot.
When the chips were down, Wicklow arrested the slide and it was Hannon's pair of beauties that ensured that Murphy was mobbed by delirious fans after the final whistle.
Man of the Match: Tony Hannon
SCORERS -- Wicklow: T Hannon 0-7 (6f), D Hayden 1-1, D Healy, L Glynn, S Furlong (1f) 0-2 each, J McGrath 0-1; Clare: D Tubridy 0-7 (6f), R Donnelly 1-1, S McGrath 0-2, G Brennan, S Brennan 0-1 each.
WICKLOW -- J Flynn 8; C Hyland 6, A McLoughlin 6, A Byrne 7; D Healy 8, M McLoughlin 6, S Kelly 7; J Stafford 6, R Finn 7; L Glynn 6, D O'Sullivan 7, D Hayden 8; T Hannon 8, S Furlong 8, J McGrath 8. Subs: S Byrne for McLoughlin (64), A O'Malley for McGrath (68).
CLARE -- J Hayes 6; B Hartnett 6, S McNeilies 6, L Healy 7; M McMahon 6, G Kelly 6, J Hayes 7; G Brennan 8, G Quinlan 7; G Kelly 6, S McGrath 7, A Clohessy 6; R Donnelly 7, D Tubridy 8, N Browne 6. Subs: C Kelly 7 for Kelly (h-t), S Brennan 7 for Browne (h-t), S Haugh 6 for Hartnett (h-t), D Russell 7 for Brennan (48).
REF -- C Lane (Cork)