Wednesday 20 September 2017

O'Dowd full of praise as Royals come back to frustrate Tribesmen

Galway 0-15 Meath 1-12

Galway forward Damien Comer holds onto the boot of Meath's Mickey Burke, which resulted in a black card for him Photo: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE
Galway forward Damien Comer holds onto the boot of Meath's Mickey Burke, which resulted in a black card for him Photo: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE
Meath's Cillian O'Sullivan tries to block a kick from Galway's Paul Conroy Photo: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE
Meath team-mates Cillian O'Sullivan and Mickey Burke after the game Photo: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE

John Fallon

A quarter of the 20 league games between these two counties have now ended in draws, but it is doubtful if any of the previous contests were as peculiar as this one.

Meath, having collapsed in the second half at home to Cavan last weekend, almost did the exact same again this time round, squandering a nine-point interval lead before coming from three down with four minutes left to snatch a draw.

The wind in Salthill is often a factor in games at Pearse Stadium, but it didn't really have much of an impact at the seaside venue yesterday. What dictated the flow of play in this crunch game was the vastly contrasting ways the two sides managed to apply themselves.

Meath, albeit with the breeze behind them, bossed the opening half and came off best in nearly all the 50-50 battles.

It was the other way round after the restart, with the introduction of Gary Sice and Danny Cummins injecting a bit of fire and guile into a Galway side who lost their most dangerous forward, Damien Comer, to a black card just before the break.

A similar fate befell Meath skipper Donal Keogan after 10 minutes, but a week of dealing with the fallout of the Cavan disaster had the Royals in a mood to lay down a few markers.

Graham Reilly, who picked up a second yellow card in the dying moments, kicked a couple of good points to help them establish a good lead, with the Tribesmen failing to score until the 20th minute.

A lead of 1-8 to 0-2 at the break should have been enough for Meath to secure a win, but the Tribesmen took over after the restart, wiped out the big lead and led by three with four minutes left.

Meath, unlike last week, rallied and with Eamon Wallace and Reilly both kicking their third points, the stage was set for sub Cian O'Brien to land an excellent equaliser.

No wonder then that manager Mick O'Dowd was proud of his men. "It wouldn't have been good if we had lost that game, the way that we were ahead at half-time and two Sundays in a row," said O'Dowd.

"I am actually really, really proud of the Meath players. You saw what happened last Sunday, where we were leading and ended up losing by seven points. Same thing happened today, brilliant first half, but when we lost that lead, we were the ones that responded in the last five minutes with three scores. I am nothing but proud of the players."

His side got some big breaks as well, with Mickey Newman tapping the ball into an empty net after a fisted back-pass from Paul Conroy to his advancing goalkeeper Manus Breathnach went astray in a tackle.

Leadership

Galway, who remain in the promotion hunt despite still not winning a home game, got their act together after the restart, with Sice showing great leadership around the middle of the field. "He had a great impact in the second half," said Galway manager Kevin Walsh.

"This is a tough league. There's going to be teams taking points left, right and centre. Meath were hurting from last week, and they came out fighting."

Shane Walsh, Thomas Flynn and Eddie Hoare kicked some great points as Galway drew level after 51 minutes before edging in front for the first time.

And while they didn't hold their goal advantage in the closing stages, Walsh took a lot of positives from the clash. "It's a learning process for these lads," he said.

Scorers - Galway: E Hoare 0-4 (2f); S Walsh 0-3; P Conroy (1f), T Flynn 0-2 each; G Sice (1f), G O'Donnell D Comer, A Varley 0-1 each. Meath: M Newman 1-2; G Reilly, E Wallace 0-3 each; S Tobin (2f) 0-2, D Lenihan, C O'Brien 0-1 each

Galway- M Breathnach 6; D Wynne 6, D Kyne 7, E Kerin 6; L Silke 6, G O'Donnell 7, J Heaney 7; T Flynn 8, P Conroy 7; E Tierney 6, E Hoare 8, E Brannigan 7; D Comer 6, A Varley 7, S Walsh 9. Subs: F Hanley 6 for Kyne (9-11), Hanley for Kerin (17), G Sice 9 for Tierney (35), D Cummins 7 for Comer (35, black card), S Denvir 6 for Brannigan (71), C Sweeney 6 for Heaney (71)

Meath - C McHugh; C McGill, M Burke, D Keogan; J McEntee, P Harnan, A Douglas; H Rooney, G Reilly; S Tobin, C O'Sullivan, D Tobin; E Wallace, M Newman, D Lenihan. Subs: N Judge for Keogan (12, black card), R O Coilleann for Newman (51), C O'Brien for Judge (51), C Downey for S Tobin (67)

Ref - C Lane (Cork)

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