Defeat from jaws of victory for Juniors
Leinster Junior Football Championship Semi-final: Meath 0-17 Louth 2-10
The seemingly neverending torment for Louth footballers at the hands of their neighbours continued unabated in this Leinster JFC semi-final at Pairc Tailteann last Wednesday evening.
The prize for the winners was substantial - a date at Croke Park on Leinster final day - and Louth seemed to be well on their way to fulfilling that engagement when leading by eight points heading towards half-time.
At the break the Wee County's position was still a comfortable one as they held a 2-6 to 0-5 lead and the visitors were full value for that seven-point advantage after dominating long stretches of the opening half.
Meath were having their first outing of the campaign and were well off the pace, struggling to cope in several sectors of the pitch. Eamon O'Neill and Seanie Crosbie were well on top at midfield for the visitors, while the Meath defence looked vulnerable whenever the Louth men launched an attack.
There was little indication that Meath were capable of turning the game in their favour, but for some reason Louth failed to kick on at the start of the second half and seemed content to hold onto what they had.
That gave Meath a chance and they grabbed it with both hands, posting six successive points in the third quarter while Louth failed to add to their tally in the same period.
By the 50th minute the Louth lead had disappeared following Darren Finney's equalising point and Kevin Ross then pointed Meath ahead for the first time since the opening passages a minute later.
Louth showed admirable courage to respond, with substitute Fergal Malone hitting over the leveller from distance. Malcolm McDonnell's charges then regained the lead when Barry O'Hare accounted for his sixth point, following a foul on Niall Sharkey on 55 minutes.
In a tense and exciting finish Frank O'Reilly converted a '45 to haul Meath level a minute from the end of normal time. Then on the hour mark corner forward Oran Meehan broke through from the left wing and wisely fisted over the bar for what proved to be the winning score as Louth keeper Luke Haggins advanced to narrow the angle.
In the three minutes of added time Louth were unable to conjure an equaliser and Meath held out for a final meeting against Kildare.
It was tough luck on Louth, but they never showed the same commitment and work ethic throughout the second period as that displayed in the opening half-hour.
Meath were quickly into their stride with the opening two points of the game, from Kevin Ross and Danny Quinn. But Louth then took control of proceedings and with Barry O'Hare accounting for four points they had built up a 0-5 to 0-3 lead by the 15th minute.
It got even better for the Wee County after that as Cian Callan netted from an Eamon O'Neill delivery on 16 minutes, and wing back Cathal Bellew added a second goal on 23 minutes to leave it 2-5 to 0-4.
The home side went close to finding the net a minute later, but some desperate defending saw the Louth rearguard clear off their line on no fewer than three occasions as the ball bobbled around the danger area.
Points from Frank O'Reilly (free), Sean Reilly and Danny Quinn in the opening 10 minutes of the second half dragged Meath closer and they were now edging the exchanges around midfield.
Kevin Ross, Darren Finney - who had a big bearing on proceedings throughout the second half - and O'Reilly hit further points before keeper Luke Haggins - from a free - opened Louth's second half account on 46 minutes. Eamon O'Neill added another point a minute later, but the momentum was with Davy Nelson's side at that stage and they drove on for victory.
MEATH: Adam McDermott; Darren Gibney, Michael Flood, Kieran Slavin; James Cassidy, Morgan Callaghan, Robin Clarke; Sean Reilly 0-1, Danny Quinn 0-2; Cathal McConnell, Frank O'Reilly 0-5 (4f, 1 '45), Jason Scully 0-1; Oran Meehan 0-1, Robbie Farrelly, Kevin Ross 0-5 (4f). Subs: Darren Finney 0-2 for Gibney (h-t), Stephen Coogan for Farrelly (48), Tommy O'Reilly for McConnell (53).
LOUTH: Luke Haggins 0-1f; Niall Sharkey, Adam Shields, Patrick Hanlon; Cathal Bellew 1-0, Peter Dixon, Barry Reynolds; Eamon O'Neill 0-2, Seanie Crosbie; Gerry Garland, Cian Callan 1-0, Dean Carolan; Philip Englishby, Padraig Moley, Barry O'Hare 0-6 (4f). Subs: Sean Marry for Moley (27), Jordon O'Donoghue for Carolan (47), Fergal Malone 0-1 for Garland (48), Val Leddy for Crosbie (52), Colm Giggins for O'Neill (59).
REF: David O'Connor (Dublin)