Tipp shatter Royal hopes

O'Brien admits avoiding drop is priority after crushing loss

Jackie Cahill

TIPPERARY blew a huge hole in Meath's promotion hopes by claiming a two-point victory against the visiting Royal County at Semple Stadium yesterday.

Interviewed for the official match programme, Meath boss Eamonn O'Brien spoke of his ambition to return to the top flight but the visitors left for home with some work to do to preserve their Division 2 status.

A second defeat in four matches leaves Meath two points behind second placed Armagh and three adrift of table-toppers Down.

But Tipperary's win has boosted their hopes of staying up and leaves the Premier County just a single point behind Meath, who are one of four teams locked together on four points.

That's how competitive a division this is and Tipp got the rub of the green in the 55th minute when Barry Grogan converted a penalty after referee Tom Lynch had seemed to originally signal for a free out to Meath.

O'Brien admitted: "I didn't see the penalty -- it looked innocuous but it did change the course of the game. He signalled a free out -- whether he signalled wrong I don't know."

With David Bray forced off injured at the death, the only real positives on the day for were the performance of top scorer Cian Ward and Shane O'Rourke's return to action as a substitute.

But as O'Brien insisted that Tipp were deserving winners, he also pondered aloud on where his team, All-Ireland semi-finalists last year, stand in the current pecking order.

He said: "Survival is what we have to make sure of now, rather than promotion. You don't know whether we exceeded expectations last year.

"Maybe that might be a reality but having said that, Tipp played quite well and when they were in possession of the ball, it was hard to get back at them. 1-9 is not a huge score to concede and I don't think that at any time did they really threaten a goal chance.

"It's problems in other areas that we need to look at as well."

SCORERS -- Tipperary: B Grogan 1-5 (1-0 pen, 0-4f, 0-1 sline), P Austin 0-2, C Sweeney (1f), B Coen 0-1 each. Meath: C Ward 0-5 (1f, 1sline), S O'Rourke 0-2, S McAnarney, P Byrne, S Bray 0-1 each.

TIPPERARY: P Fitzgerald; C McDonald, N Curran, P Codd; C Aylward, R Costigan, C McGrath; G Hannigan, S Grogan; P Acheson, P Austin, B Mulvihill; C Sweeney, B Coen, B Grogan. Subs: S Hahessy for Sweeney (ht), J Cagney for Mulvihill (52), A Rockett for S Grogan (57), S Carey for Austin (63), R O'Dwyer for Coen (69).

MEATH: P O'Rourke; E Harrington, N McKeigue, C O'Connor; S Kenny, M Burke, A Moyles; N Crawford, M Ward; S McAnarney, C Ward, J Queeney; D Bray, J Sheridan, S Bray. Subs: O Lewis for Sheridan (h-t), S O'Rourke for Queeney (49), P Byrne for McAnarney (56), N Mooney for D Bray (70).

REF: T Lynch (Kerry).