Second time lucky as Meath claim All-Ireland glory
A year after leaving this title behind them, Meath returned to Semple Stadium and finally got their hands on the Richie McElligott Cup.
Meath 1-20 Mayo 0-15
They lost the 2015 decider against Wicklow by two points and left Thurles with heads full of regret as numerous goal chances were spurned.
Just one goal was scored on Saturday, but a run of eight points without reply in a blistering final 10 minutes was good enough for the Royals to see off Mayo.
The sides were level with nine minutes left - 1-12 to 0-15 - but Meath finished with a flourish.
Captain Jack Regan nailed some crucial frees down the home straight, sub Ryan Moore made a big impact with two points and, fittingly, man of the match Gavin McGowan completed the scoring with his sixth point of the afternoon.
Satisfied manager Philip O'Brien said: "I'm a very happy man. I thought we were going to leave it behind us again like last year.
"We only really played, I thought, for the last 10 minutes of the match.
"It was unbelievable what happened us last year - we had a really good team, but they came back, knuckled down and to win this is great for Meath and great for hurling in Meath."
It was a victory that crowned a fine season for hurling in the Royal County, following a superb Christy Ring Cup final victory over Antrim.
At half-time, Meath were 1-7 to 0-9 ahead, Stefan Kelly on target with the goal, but Mayo restored parity before the Royals kicked for home.
Mayo's impressive forward Fergal Boland missed a couple of frees at crucial stages after the break, but the Westerners acquitted themselves well.
They were four points down approaching half-time, but cut the deficit to the bare minimum at the interval. After half-time, a Boland free levelled matters and they were right in the hunt before Meath's decisive purple patch.
"For the last five minutes, they just took over. Before that, we were well with them, but we just could not get ahead," said Mayo manager John Waldron.
"If we could have got ahead at all it would have lifted us and taken a kick out of them, but it didn't happen."
Mayo, however, can reflect with pride on a season that featured Nicky Rackard Cup glory.
Boss Waldron struck an optimistic tone as he noted: "It's been a great year for Mayo hurling and hopefully there will be more. There will be more from this bunch anyway."
Scorers - Meath: S Kelly 1-3, G McGowan 0-6, J Regan 0-5f, R Moore 0-2, D Reilly, S McGrath, E Ó Donnacha & L Martyn 0-1 each. Mayo: F Boland 0-9 (8f), J Gallagher, C Scahill, Z O'Toole, S Forde, J Coyne & D Gallagher 0-1 each.
MEATH: C Bird; C Dempsey, I Hughes, L Ferguson; S Coloe, Ronan Ryan, D Reilly; L Martyn, S McGrath; J Regan, S Quigley, E Ó Donnacha; S Kelly, Ross Ryan, G McGowan. Subs: K Ryan for Ó Donnacha (35), R Moore for Ross Ryan (51), F McCabe for Martyn (60+3).
MAYO: M Parsons; C Murphy, M Phillips, J Lyons; D Harrison, D Kenny, C Murray; S Mulroy, J Gallagher; F Boland, C Scahill, Z O'Toole; S Forde, J Judge, J Coyne. Subs: S Nugent for Lyons (28), D Gallagher for Judge (30), M Lyons for Forde (50), C Collins for Coyne (60+2).
Ref - J Keane (Galway).