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Skryne test the mettle of Gaels

Meath SFC: Simonstown 1-14 Skryne 0-11


Shane O’Rourke of Simonstown Gaels in action against Skryne’s Stephen O’Brien during the Meath SFC game at Páirc Tailteann in Navan

Shane O’Rourke of Simonstown Gaels in action against Skryne’s Stephen O’Brien during the Meath SFC game at Páirc Tailteann in Navan

Shane O’Rourke of Simonstown Gaels in action against Skryne’s Stephen O’Brien during the Meath SFC game at Páirc Tailteann in Navan

Once upon a distant time, when a Dunboyne herbalist was the most famous football manager in Ireland, the Royals were revered and feared as the high kings of escapology.

Harry Houdinis in green jerseys; men who liked their Kepak steaks rare and their opponents burned to a cinder by a last-minute goal from a Kevin Foley or Ollie Murphy.

After 53 minutes of yesterday's Meath SFC clash in Páirc Tailteann, you were starting to wonder if some of Seán Boylan's old magic was rubbing off on Skryne.

Four minutes into the second half of this Group C opener, they had trailed Simonstown Gaels by nine points. They had the wind and they also had a numerical advantage thanks to the black card. But, up to that point, they couldn't kick snow off a rope.

Then something changed. Skryne found their range and their Navan town rivals threatened to implode. Over the course of 18 minutes, the chasers landed eight of the next nine points. It all culminated in Ciarán Lenehan's towering effort, reducing the deficit to a very retrievable two.

County panellist Darragh Campion led the comeback, kicking three points (including a brace of '45s') during this period of dominance.

Simonstown's kickout was creaking badly, losing four on the spin at one point.

But then, just like that, the comeback died. Where Meath of the '90s invariably found a way, Skryne lost their way … or, to be more generous, Simonstown reasserted themselves in the nick of time.

A brilliant goal on 54 minutes proved the game-breaker. It was fitting that a player with a direct lineage back to the good old days, Shane O'Rourke, should initiate the killer move with a fine pass.

By now, the 32-year-old target man had moved out towards the middle in a bid to stem Skryne's stranglehold. With his father Colm looking on among the 200 present, O'Rourke picked out another former Meath player, Padraig McKeever, who got in behind his man and then released Mark Gardiner, marauding from wing-back.

Gardiner had been one of two Simonstown players black-carded late in the first half - a disciplinary double-whammy that briefly left them with 13 men.

Here he atoned with a clinical right-footed finish via the butt of the left upright.

Campion's fourth point offered Skryne the merest glimmer, but McKeever confirmed his 'Man of the Match' billing with the last two points, the first after a slick solo-dummy, before Skryne's dismay was compounded by Harry Rooney's double-yellow dismissal in stoppage-time.

McKeever's late flourish brought his haul to 0-8, the first five from frees, the last three from play. The centre-forward squandered just one free, one of only four Simonstown wides.

Skryne, by scattergun contrast, clocked 11 wides while dropping another four short. For all of their second half valour, that statistic cuts to the heart of this six-point defeat.

Simonstown had lost their first two league games post-lockdown, but you'd never have guessed as they sprinted from the traps to lead by 0-10 to 0-2 at the break.

Andrew Kearney led the onslaught with three eye-catching strikes, only to walk himself into black card trouble straight after his third. Even still, Seán Tobin's deadball monster and O'Rourke's sumptuous sideline ball (straight from the Maurice Fitz playbook) appeared to put this game to bed.

Not quite so, but victory the hard way will buoy their spirits ahead of facing Nobber on Friday week, with a last-day showdown against holders Ratoath likely to decide who tops the group and advances to the last-four.

SCORERS - Simonstown Gaels: P McKeever 0-8 (5f), A Kearney 0-3, M Gardiner 1-0, B McGrath, S Tobin (f), S O'Rourke (sideline) 0-1 each. Skryne: D Campion 0-4 (2 '45s'), M Battersby 0-3 (2f, 1m), N Finnerty (f), H Rooney, B Davis, C Lenehan 0-1 each.

SIMONSTOWN GAELS: R Burlingham; M Gavin, S Moran, J Carolan; B McGrath, B Conlon, M Gardiner; S Tobin, R O'Connor; B Hoey, P McKeever, N O'Brien; S Barry, S O'Rourke, A Kearney. Subs: R Connor for O'Brien (42), J Lyons for O'Connor (52), J Heaney for Hoey (57).

SKRYNE: I Gillette; R Clarke, C Lenehan, N Lenehan; A Moore, E Greene, S O'Brien; H Rooney, T Carpenter; S Smyth, D Campion, P Carpenter; N Finnerty, M Battersby, P Finnerty. Subs: E Smyth for P Carpenter & C O'Brien for P Finnerty (ht), B Davis for T Carpenter (35), I Davis for S Smyth (48).

REF: A Smith (Dunshaughlin)