Bray seals deal for O'Mahonys as Na Fianna fightback falls short
O'Mahonys 0-13 Na Fianna 1-8 Meath SFC Final
In the end, Na Fianna left themselves with too much to do in too little time.
The second half had been pedestrian. O'Mahonys were good enough to keep the challengers at arm's length without ever killing the thing off.
They should have been home and hosed long before Na Fianna struck for the only goal of the game. Instead, Jamie Queeney picked out Ethan Devine, who found the bottom corner of the net and the Na Fianna support found their voice.
From the next kickout, Na Fianna won possession and then a free that was brought forward. Daniel Queeney boomed over the placed ball. Suddenly there was one point in a game that had rarely managed to get the pulse racing.
It was all or nothing now and Na Fianna needed the next ball if they were to pull this one out of the fire but O'Mahonys won possession and worked the ball up the field.
Stephen Bray was put in the clear with a goal on. But the recently retired Meath star knew what was needed. His fourth point of the day was the final nail in the coffin and secured back-to-back titles for the Navan side.
There should probably never have been that much drama in the second half but even when Na Fianna were coming with their late surge, O'Mahonys manager Davy Nelson always felt his side were going to see it out.
"I thought we were in control," Nelson reflected. "We had a five-point lead but I'm too long at it, you're always on your guard.
"They got a fortuitous goal, I had a great view of it and it skidded off Kevin (Reilly), off some part of him, and in underneath the goalkeeper.
"Again, there was no panic from us, or the lads on the pitch, to get the last score. It was the same as the semi-final, we conceded two goals completely against the run of play and went down the field and got the next three or four points. That's what champions do."
O'Mahonys played with the aid of the stiff breeze blowing towards the hospital end in the first half and they set about building up a lead immediately, with the impressive Ruairi O'Coileain, who will be involved with Mick O'Dowd's Meath senior set-up in 2016, kicking the first score of the game from a free after just a minute.
Dalton McDonagh hit back for underdogs Na Fianna when his clever dummy solo created an opening for their first score.
The Enfield-based side, who are under the guidance of former Meath manager Eamonn Barry, might have goaled after ten minutes when Darragh Maguire was deemed to have pulled down Ollie Lewis in the area after Jamie Queeney's clever lay off. However, Marcus Brennan in the O'Mahonys goal did well to beat away Daniel Queeney's effort from the spot.
The Navan men would kick the next three points through O'Coileain (two) and a tremendous outside-of-the-boot effort from Bray.
And while both sides struggled with the wet and windy conditions, Na Fianna always had an out ball through Jamie Queeney and he was able to help his side manufacture two more points from play before the half was out.
O'Mahonys landed a good score from a Jake Regan 45 but Na Fianna created another goal chance. This time McDonagh tricked his way through the rearguard but his effort was well blocked by Brennan once more before Nelson's men shovelled the ball clear after a goalmouth scramble.
It left the Navan men leading by 0-6 to 0-3 at the break.
O'Mahonys quickly extended that gap to six points on the restart and they remained beyond the reach of Na Fianna until those frantic few moments at the death.
"Today was not for fancy football," Nelson said.
"Today was all about courage and courage takes many forms. The penalty save was massive, just massive. You get energy from scores, he seemed to strike it very well but Marcus proved why he is the best goalie in Meath.
"He made the brilliant save, then we got the next couple of scores that gave us a little cushion."
O'Mahonys have now secured three of the last four Meath titles and they move on to face Longford champions Killoe in the Leinster championship.
"We are together a good while now and we always find a way," a satisfied Nelson said.
"To win today was a huge ambition for us and we have achieved it. We have had one slip in the last few years, but we have been very consistent.
"We won the championship in 2012, we had one slip in 2013 that cost us, then we won last year and again this year, that's a fair effort from the boys."
Scorers - O'Mahonys: J Regan 0-5 (3fs, 2 '45s'), S Bray 0-4, R O'Coileain 0-3 (2fs), D Bray 0-1. Na Fianna: E Devine 1-2 (0-1 '45'), D Queeney 0-4fs, B Clancy, D McDonagh 0-1 each.
O'Mahonys - M Brennan; J O'Reilly, N McKeigue, D Smyth; B Dillon, D Maguire, G O'Brien; C McGuinness, K Reilly; R O'Coileain, S Bray, A Forde; S Gillespie, D Bray, J Regan. Reps: H Finnegan for Forde (41), R Maguire for Gillespie (59), D Moran for O'Colieain (60).
Na Fianna - S Geraghty; J Geagan, C Cosgrave, J Baldwin; M Farley, A Neary, D Henrick; O Lewis, B Queeney; D Queeney, J Queeney, E Devine; B Clancy, D McDonagh, C Downey. Reps: D Barrett for B Queeney (h-t), S Barrett for McDonagh (48).
Ref - P Coyle (Seneschalstown).