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O'Rourke magic kick-started Meath's response

Reliving the Royals' 1984 Centenary Cup Triumph: Meath 0-10 Monaghan 0-8

A whirlwind start by Monaghan that brought them three points in four minutes left Meath breathless and it took all their character and experience to haul themselves level before the game could slip beyond their reach.

Hugo Clerkin, working a neat passing movement with Nudie Hughes, had Monaghan ahead in the second minute and sharpshooter Kieran Finlay added two more scores in as many minutes, again set up by Hughes for the first and fielding above Martin O'Connell to take a brilliant second point.

Meath needed a score, and fast, to stay in touch. They looked to Colm O'Rourke and in the fifth minute he opened their account with a magnificent point from the right wing.

Two minutes later St Mary's Liam Smith cut the lead to a point after Liam Hayes had been fouled by Eamonn McEneaney. Another two minutes later and the sides were level, Colm Coyle not for the first time in the match showing great determination to win the ball, which O'Rourke gathered well to take a good point.

But any notion that Monaghan would lie down was quickly dispelled by the effervescent Hughes who interchanged with Bernie Murray for an eighth-minute point. O'Rourke had the first of Meath two wides for the entire match, before Padraig Lyons, supporting in attack, took a neat pass to fire over an equaliser in the 10th minute.

This was the game's best period and Mattie McCabe gathered well 60 seconds later to shoot Meath ahead for the first time.

But between that 11th minute score by McCabe and another similar effort by the same player in the 18th minute, both goals had a let-off, Meath the greater. In an attack down the right for Monaghan, Murray's low centre deceived the Meath defence and went across the goal to the inrushing Michael Caulfield who met it with a low hard shot that came back off the base of the post, with keeper Jimmy Fay beaten.

Minutes later it was Monaghan's turn for their let-off when Coyle's long delivery was robbed by O'Rourke out of Gerry McCarville's hands and he set up Mattie McCabe for a clear chance on goal. However, McCabe tried to find Liam Smith in a better position and that effort was blocked down.

Nevertheless Meath were two points in front, but Monaghan came back strongly before the interval, Hughes pointing from play and Finlay then hitting the equaliser from a free in the 25th minute.

In the five minutes remaining before the break Meath needed a great block and clearance from Martin O'Connell to stop a dangerous raid when the Ulster side had men over. Then in the dying minutes of the half Mick Lyons was booked after the referee consulted an umpire about an off-the-ball incident.

It was Gerry McCarville's turn to enter the referee's book a minute after the restart for a foul on O'Rourke that brought a point from Liam Smith's free. Minutes later O'Connell had to perform another rescue act for Meath when they were again caught short at the back.

Monaghan and Nudie Hughes were far from finished and they levelled scores for the fourth time with a good point in the 36th minute. Two minutes later Meath had a great chance after Finian Murtagh slipped in taking a free, but his half-hit shot eventually came to Mattie McCabe who blasted over when a goal was certainly on.

Liam Smith left Meath two clear following a nice piece of footwork and at that stage JJ McCormack had replaced the injured McCabe. Smith also accounted for Meath's final point from another free to push them three clear with 10 minutes remaining.

The big Monaghan following gave their team tremendous vocal encouragement in the closing stages, but all they could manage was a Nudie Hughes point on 56 minutes.

MEATH: Jimmy Fay; Bob O'Malley, Mick Lyons, Padraig Lyons 0-1; Padraig Finnerty, Joe Cassells, Martin O'Connell; Liam Hayes, Gerry McEntee; Colm Coyle, Mattie McCabe 0-3, Liam Smith 0-4; Finian Murtagh, Colm O'Rourke 0-2, Bernard Flynn. Subs: JJ McCormack for McCabe, Michael Downes for Flynn, Gerry McLoughlin for Finnerty.

MONAGHAN: Kevin McNeill; Declan Loughman, Gerry McCarville, Eugene Sherry; Kieran Murray, Sean McCarville, Declan Flanagan; Eamonn McEneaney, Hugo Clerkin 0-1; Kieran Finlay 0-3, Ray McCarron, Kevin Treanor; Nudie Hughes 0-4, Michael Caulfield, Bernie Murray.

REF: Seamus Aldridge (Kildare)

Drogheda Independent