Tobin too hot to handle as Royals find their rhythm
Mick O'Dowd made six changes to the Meath team for their trip to Aughrim and he was rewarded with a decisive victory.
Meath and Wicklow came to the game on the back of heavy defeats – to Monaghan and Fermanagh, respectively – in their opening matches and it was the Royals who left with their league campaign back on track.
Dead-eyed corner-forwards Michael Newman and Sean Tobin spearheaded the victory with their scoring exploits, but there was much else to savour from this comprehensive Royal victory.
The players played with greater purpose and pace compared with the limp display they put in against Monaghan.
Tobin and Newman, who accounted for nine points between them, were well supported by wing-back Ciaran Lenihan, who repeatedly bounded forward to aid his attackers, especially in the first half, and by midfielders Conor Gillespie and Brian Meade, who wrested control from their direct opponents James Stafford and Anthony McLoughlin, though the latter did have a fine first half.
However, Wicklow lacked forwards of the quality of Tobin and Newman, with only two of their scores coming from forwards Brendan McCrea and John McGrath, who pointed a free but got nothing from three other placed balls.
McCrea gave Wicklow an early lead with the opening point after eight minutes, but Graham Reilly levelled for Meath in the 12th minute, and then Newman nudged the visitors ahead 0-3 to 0-1 at the end of the first quarter as he pointed a free and then drilled between the posts from play.
McLoughlin struck a fine brace for Wicklow to close the gap to 0-4 to 0-6 after 29 minutes, but the home side had a disastrous last five minutes to the half.
Meath closed out the half with four unanswered points, three of them from Tobin, to lead by 0-10 to 0-4 at the interval, and things did not get any better for Wicklow on the resumption despite having the wind at their backs.
Wicklow did have a couple of half-chances of goals, however, but James Stafford saw his effort smothered by the Meath defence, and Alan Byrne's rocket was brilliantly stopped by Meath 'keeper Paddy O'Reilly, who otherwise had a rather quiet afternoon, save for pumping a second-half '45' straight between the posts.
Stafford did kick two late points for Wicklow, the second a spectacular overhead effort.
But overall Wicklow will need to improve their performance in upcoming matches if they are to avoid the drop back to Division 4.
Man of the Match: S Tobin (Meath)
Scorers – Meath: M Newman 0-5 (3f), S Tobin 0-4 (1f), P Byrne 0-2, G Reilly, P Gilsenan, B Meade, C Lenihan, P O'Rourke 0-1 each. Wicklow: J Stafford 0-3 (1f), A McLoughlin 0-2, J McGrath (1f), B McCrea, P McWalter 0-1 each.
Meath – P O'Rourke 7; D Keoghan 7, B Menton 7, S Curran 7; C Lenihan 8, E Harrington 7, D Dalton 7; B Meade 8, C Gillespie 8; P Glennan 6, M Collins 6, P Byrne 7; S Tobin 8, G Reilly 7, M Newman 8. Subs: C Rowe for Gilsenan (60), A Tormey for Collins (62), C Young for Curran (63), S Crosby for Lenihan (66), J Sheridan for Meade (68).
Wicklow – J Flynn 7; C Hyland 6, D Power 6, J Kelly 7; D Healy 6, P McWalter 7, A Byrne 7; J Stafford 6, A McLoughlin 7; D Hayden 6, P Dalton 7, J McGrath 6; B McCrea 6, P Earls 6, D O'Sullivan 6. Subs: N Mernagh 6 for O'Sullivan (h-t), S Byrne 6 for Hayden (h-t), R Finn 6 for McCrea (41), D Woods 6 for McGrath (54).
Ref – F Barry (Kildare).