Royals rule as goals cost Louth again
GAA Electric Ireland Leinster MFC: Meath 4-14 Louth 0-12
Louth hopes of emulating last year's Leinster minor final appearance came to an end as their winless streak continued at the Gaelic Grounds last Wednesday evening.
The concession of goals has been the Wee County's Achilles heel so far in the campaign and they leaked another four in this contest as Meath turned the screw following a shaky start.
Two goals in the space of a minute in the second quarter turned the match in Meath's favour and the Royals went on to register a comfortable win, their third of the campaign to strengthen their grip on a semi-final spot.
Meath were on a high following their impressive win against Dublin a week earlier and their minds seemed to be elsewhere in the opening third of the game as Louth threatened a huge upset.
The loss of talisman Jonathan Commins after just 12 minutes with a wrist injury failed to knock Louth out of their rhythm as they started in impressive style.
Commins pointed his side ahead following a foul on Daire Nally inside three minutes and Craig Shevlin then double their advantage.
Luke Mitchell got through to point from a tight angle for Meath's opening score in one of their rare attacks in the opening quarter. Ryan Walsh (free), Tom Jackson with a lovely effort following fine work by Nally, Conall McCaul and Joe Mee all had points to push the hosts into a 0-6 to 0-1 advantage by the 20th minute.
A dominant Louth were full value for that lead and could have been ahead by much more but for some wayward shooting. However in a flash the game took a dramatic twist with Meath pouncing for two quick-fire goals.
First Mitchell pointed from a free and then on 23 minutes the Louth rearguard was prized open and midfielder Cian McBride finished to the net after keeper Martin McEneaney parried a Luke Kelly goal effort.
Within 30 seconds McEneaney was in the thick of the action again, this time keeping out an effort from Conor Farrelly. Within another 30 seconds he was picking the ball out of the net for a second time following a flowing move that was ended by full forward Kelly.
Those goals seemed to knock the stuffing out of Louth and they eventually finished the half 0-7 to 2-4 in arrears.
Darragh Swaine hit the opening score of the second half to increase the visitors lead but Louth stayed in contention following two further points from Ryan Walsh.
Meath though were gaining a stranglehold and by the end of the third quarter their lead stretched out to six points, 2-9 to 0-9.
Within two minutes of the final quarter the game was over as a contest as the Royals struck for another brace of goals.
The impressive Mitchell hit the first of those and then captain Matthew Costello left it 4-9 to 0-9 - the 12th goal that Louth had conceded in their three games to date.
Proceedings became fragmented after that as both sides emptied their bench. Mitchell finished top scorer for Meath with 1-5, followed by Costello with 1-4 as the Royals edged closer with a last four place with their remaining matches against Offaly (home) and Wicklow (away)
MEATH: Sean Brennan; James O'Hare, Harry O'Higgins, Cathal Hickey; Conor Farrelly, Conor Harford, Sean Coffey; Adam Reilly, Cian McBride 1-0; Darragh Swaine 0-1, Matthew Costello 1-4, Bryan McCormack 0-1; David Bell, Luke Kelly 1-1, Luke Mitchell 1-5 (4f). Subs: Brian O'Hanlon 0-1 for Bell (36), Oisin McCloskey for Harford (50), Adam Treanor for McCormack (50), Joe Moore 0-1 for Kelly (54), Niall Bennett for Swaine (57), Jack Dardis for Hickey (59).
LOUTH: Martin McEneaney; Finbarr Lynch, Paul McEvoy, Bobby Butterly; Ruairi Hanlon, Cathal Fleming, Gabriel Bell; Conall McCaul 0-1, Joe Mee 0-1; Tom Jackson 0-2, Daire Nally, Craig Shevlin 0-1; Sean Healy, Ryan Walsh 0-5 (4f), Jonathan Commins 0-1f. Subs: Conor Quigley for Commins (12), Craig Lennon 0-1 for Shevlin (49), Conor Faulkner for Bell (53), Michael Begley for Mee (56), Jamie Winters for Butterly (59), Glen Stewart for McCaul (60).
REF: Fergal Smyth (Offaly)