Royals are haunted by curse of 2010 final
The Championship 2018 - Tyrone 2-14 Meath 0-19
'We haven't had a day's luck since the Leinster final against Louth.'
A throwaway remark from a disgruntled supporter leaving Pairc Tailteann after the Gods failed to smile on the Royals in this round one All-Ireland qualifier last Saturday.
Well, the curse of 2010 came back to haunt Meath who were left seething following a number of decision by referee Paddy Neilan as their championship season came to a premature ending.
Whether it was the decision to award Meath a free instead of a penalty on 61 minutes with the sides level, or his reluctance to blow the final whistle when the clock had ticked well beyond the five added minutes with the home side ahead by a point, or his failure to notice a foul on James McEntee in the closing moments of extra time with Meath searching for an equaliser, there were plenty of reasons for the Royals to be disgruntled.
At the final whistle Neilan was forced to endure the wrath of Meath players and management and received a Garda escort from the pitch, with the boos of supporters ringing in his ears.
A pity that such an enthralling contest should end on a sour note, and one that Meath probably deserved to take to a second period of extra time, which would have been five minutes each half. Had that foul on McEntee been awarded it was well within the range of Donal Lenihan who had rejoined the action following his substitution in normal time.
Earlier, Meath were within seconds of a shock win over last year's All-Ireland semi-finalists and a place in round two after Ben Brennan popped over a free, his sixth point of the contest in normal time. Moments later Brennan was sent off for a second yellow card offence, which left both sides with 14 following the straight red card shown to Tiernan McCann on 66 minutes.
Worse was to follow for Meath, though, when Cathal McShane gained possession and wasn't closed down quickly enough and the corner forward had time to split the posts for the equalising score - 1-11 to 0-14 - and send the game to extra time.
It was level pegging again after Connor McAliskey and James McEntee swapped points at the start of extra time, but then Tyrone scored a decisive goal that would ultimately see them over the line.
It came from substitute Harry Loughran who slapped to the net from a Ronan O'Neill pass. McShane and Niall Sludden added to the Tyrone tally and they opened up a five-point advantage before Cillian O'Sullivan hit a long-range point.
As the sides changed ends for the final time the Red Hand enjoyed a four-point cushion, 2-14 to 0-16.
Meath made a bold bid to extend their stay in the championship in the final 10 minutes as Tyrone failed to add to their tally. Points from Thomas O'Reilly, Shane Glynn and a Donal Lenihan free brought them within the minimum, but Tyrone rode their luck as they held out.
The home side, looking to prove a point following their dismal exit from the Leinster campaign, showed tremendous character and spirit throughout the 90 or more minutes.
St Colmcille's Ben Brennan announced his arrival on the inter-county scene in earnest with a mighty display that yielded half a dozen points, three of which came from placed balls. Curraha's James McEntee was another to enhance his reputation with a big performance.
Simonstown's Shane Gallagher, making his championship debut, grew in confidence after a slow start, while Donal Keogan, Conor McGill and Sean Curran all performed solidly in a Meath defence that threatened to be overrun in the opening 35 minutes.
With Peter Harte suspended and Lee Brennan and Mark Bradley out with injuries, it was left to Connor McAliskey to step up to the mark for Mickey Harte's team.
The Clonoe clubman threatened to unhinge Meath single-handedly in the opening half, scoring 1-5 of their 1-6 tally. He started with two pointed frees and then almost sneaked an effort to the net over the head of the retreating Andrew Colgan following a poor kickout. Fortunately for Meath, the ball cleared the crossbar.
However, he didn't have long to wait for the goal and it arrived on seven minutes, Conor Meyler started the move by offloading to the overlapping Michael McKernan who slipped it inside for McAliskey to apply the finishing touch.
That left it 1-3 to 0-2, Brennan and McEntee having got Meath off the mark, and the hosts then hit four successive points to be level on 17 minutes. Donal Lenihan (two frees), Donal Keogan and Cillian O'Sullivan were on the mark during that productive spell.
Michael McKernan edged Tyrone in front again and they went three clear following another McAliskey point before Lenihan converted his third free to leave two between the sides at the break, 1-6 to 0-7.
Tyrone struck eight wides in that first half, while Meath keeper Andy Colgan produced a great save to deny Padraig McNulty, while McAliskey had another goal effort that flashed off the crossbar and went wide.
Two Brennan points had the sides level by the 41st minute and it was level pegging on five further occasions throughout the half. Brennan's fourth of the match put Meath ahead for the first time on 52 minutes.
He edged them ahead again following the foul on Cillian O'Sullivan for the penalty that wasn't, and then his final point that seemed to have won it deep into added time.
While Meath were extremely unfortunate to lose, it was Tyrone who created the greater number of chances throughout.
The biggest shame from a Meath viewpoint is that they will be unable to build on this performance as it will be the 2019 O'Byrne Cup before they have another competitive outing.
TYRONE: Michael O'Neill; Hugh Pat McGeary, Ronan McNamee, Padraig Hampsey; Tiernan McCann, Michael McKernan 0-1, Frank Burns 0-2; Colm Cavanagh, Padraig McNulty; Mattie Donnelly, Niall Sludden 0-1, Conor Meyler; Cathal McShane 0-2, Richard Donnelly, Connor McAliskey 1-8 (6fs). Subs: Kieran McGeary for Meyler (48), Rory Brennan for HP McGeary (48), Harry Loughran (1-0) for R Donnelly (52), Declan McClure for McNulty (61), Ronan McNabb for McNamee (67), Ronan O'Neill for McCann (extra-time), Conor Meyler for McKernan (78), Conall McCann for McShane (86), Aidan McCrory for Hampsey (89).
MEATH: Andrew Colgan; Shane Gallagher, Conor McGill, Seamus Lavin; James McEntee 0-2, Sean Curran, Donal Keogan 0-1; Bryan Menton, Adam Flanagan; Mickey Burke 0-1, Ben Brennan 0-6 (3fs), Cillian O'Sullivan 0-2; Graham Reilly, Donal Lenihan 0-4 (4fs), Joey Wallace 0-1. Subs: Thomas O'Reilly 0-1 for Lenihan (54), Eamon Wallace for Burke (56), Bryan McMahon for J Wallace (58), Cian O'Brien for Brennan (extra-time), Shane Glynn 0-1 for Gallagher (75), Daniel O'Neill for McGill (80), Lenihan for Lavin (83).
REF: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)