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Saturday 23 February 2019

Top-drawer display by Royals goes unrewarded

GAA: Allianz Football League Division 2 - Donegal 1-13 Meath 0-14

Sean Wall

Despite answering most of the questions that Donegal threw at them in this exciting NFL Division 2 tie, Meath left Ballybofey last Saturday evening with nothing.

The Royals produced probably their best-ever play under Andy McEntee and for the majority of the match looked to be heading for what would have been a richly deserved win.

However, the game changed in a twinkle after Meath keeper Andy Colgan hesitated following a hopeful delivery from Eoghan Ban Gallagher. The alert Caolan McGonagle nipped in and got a vital touch to direct the ball between the keeper's legs and it trickled over the goal-line.

That score on 59 minutes sparked the home side to life and left them trailing by just a point, 1-10 to 0-14. They had the momentum with them at that stage, while the concession of the goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Meath men.

Ciaran Thompson hit over the equaliser, and normal time was almost up when Eoin McHugh's point put Donegal in front for the first time since the opening passages of play. Then in added time Jamie Brennan shot the insurance score to give the home side their second win of the campaign.

Despite the loss Meath will have taken tremendous encouragement from the display ahead of Sunday's home tie against Armagh.

Apart from the lapse for the goal, the Meath rearguard was again solid, particularly Conor McGill and Donal Keogan in the central roles. Wing backs James McEntee and Niall Kane performed heroics and shared four points.

There was also an improved showing from midfield, with both Shane McEntee and Bryan Menton contributing to the scoring. Newcomer Darragh Campion was the standout forward, while Ethan Devine also showed that he has the capability to nail down a permanent spot on the team.

Even allowing for the concession of the goal, Meath still had ample opportunities to take at least a share of the spoils. Mickey Newman mis-cued from a long-range free, while the best opportunity fell to Thomas O'Reilly with his side a point down, but the Tones man missed the target from 20 metres.

The four victims of the horrific car crash in west Donegal at the start of the week were remembered before the throw-in. There was a touching tribute from the visitors as county secretary Mairead Delaney presented Donegal's Central Council representative Seamus Ó Domhnaill with a lantern lit with four candles.

Meath had early opportunities to get off the mark, but it was Donegal who scored first with points from Brennan and Thompson.

The visitors settled after that and Mickey Newman had them off the mark from a free before Shane McEntee equalised on 11 minutes.

Launching attacks at pace paid rich dividends for Meath and they went in front for the first time from a Darragh Campion point and then Niall Kane made it 0-4 to 0-2. Ciaran Thompson put an end to the Meath scoring sequence with his side's third score on 18 minutes, but Meath continued to play with the greater cohesion and fully deserved their 0-8 to 0-7 interval lead.

Niall O'Donnell restored parity at the start of the second half, but Meath seemed to have the capacity to respond whenever Donegal managed a score. Brian Menton regained the lead and the Royals were ahead 0-12 to 0-8 by the 44th minute after further scores from Newman (two) and Shane McEntee. There was still four between the sides when Campion pointed after great work by Donal Keogan.

There was nothing to suggest that Meath would loosen their grip, but the game changed in a flash following that goal from McGonagle, confidence seemed to drain from the Meath men and they hit the self-destruct button in the closing stages.

MEATH: Andy Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Ronan Ryan; James McEntee 0-2, Donal Keogan, Niall Kane 0-2; Bryan Menton 0-1, Shane McEntee 0-2; Ethan Devine 0-1, Ben Brennan, Bryan McMahon; Darragh Campion 0-3, Mickey Newman 0-3 (2f), Thomas O'Reilly. Subs: Cillian O'Sullivan for Brennan (h-t), Graham Reilly for Devine (46), James Conlon for McMahon (54), Jason Scully for Campion (66), Mickey Burke for Newman (71).

DONEGAL: Mark Anthony McGinley; Conor Morrison, Brendan McCole, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Caolan Ward, Eamonn Doherty, Ryan McHugh; Hugh McFadden, Michael Langan 0-1; Niall O'Donnell 0-3 (2f), Ciaran Thompson 0-5 (3f), Caolan McGonagle 1-0; Marty Reilly 0-1 (mark), Martin McElhinney, Jamie Brennan 0-2. Subs: Leo McLoone for Langan (h-t), Jason McGee for McElhinney, Stephen McMenamin for Reilly (both 45), Eoin McHugh 0-1 for Doherty (66), Paul Brennan for O'Donnell (74).

REF: Jerome Henry (Mayo)

Drogheda Independent

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