Bad day at the office
Meath 4-19 Wicklow 0-13
Wicklow fell to a heavy defeat away to Meath in Navan last Sunday to end their O'Byrne Cup campaign for 2018. Sporting a number of changes from the starting 15 from the previous week's clash with Carlow, the Garden County side were second best throughout the encounter apart from a short spell in the opening ten minutes where they threatened the Meath defence.
Graham Reilly pointed with only 22 seconds on the clock and the home side doubled their tally from the resulting kick out when the ball was worked to corner-forward Sean Tobin to fire over.
Seanie Furlong pointed brilliantly in the third minute before Gearoid Murphy restored parity with a fine free from distance.
However, this would be the last Wicklow score for over a quarter of an hour with their hosts causing plenty of damage with their overlaps and their dominance in midfield shown in a six to one mark count and a large kick out won ratio favouring the hosts.
Mark McCabe and Adam Flanagan added quick scores for Meath in the 8th minute before the first crucial blow was dealt Wicklow's way in the 15th minute. The Wicklow defence were left exposed with the willing runners from deep and one such run resulted in a block which fell into the path of David Toner who fired home low from the edge of the square.
Full-forward Donal Lenihan pointed a free moments later before he powered a thunderous effort into the roof of the Wicklow net with 22 minutes on the clock to open a nine-point cushion. The industrious Dean Healy was full of running all game and he pointed a fantastic score for himself to end the drought but Graham Reilly added two more frees for a Meath side who were finding the target much easier.
A snapshot from Padraig O'Toole almost brought a glimmer of hope to Wicklow but it was denied by David Gallagher in the Meath goal.
Lenihan, David Toner and Paddy Fennelly all tacked on scores for Meath coming into half time with Wicklow adding two scores through the boot of Gearoid Murphy who impressed from the placed ball. The half-time score read a disappointing Meath 2-10 to Wicklow's 0-5.
A raft of changes occurred at half-time with more new faces being introduced to inter-county football. Three Wicklow frees and a fantastic score from Dean Healy again were Matched by four points of Meath's.
A couple of indecisive errors cost Wicklow during this period with a free for a pick up off the ground and a turnover of possession from a quick free being punished by a clinical Royal outfit. Young Avondale defender Saoirse Kearnon was introduced into the action in the second period and he gave Wicklow supporters a glimpse of his ability with a wonderful interception in front of the Wicklow dug out and a tigerish display in defence and Darragh Fitzgerald was constantly looking to work the ball forward from wing back.
Theo Smith started in the number 10 jersey and found himself on a lot of possession, Seanie Furlong probably won his battle with his Meath counterpart but lacked support when he needed it while Dean Healy was the pick of the Wicklow players on display.
For the opening 20 minutes of the second half, Wicklow improved immensely and competed very well. Manager John Evans stated on Sunday Sport on Radio 1 his satisfaction at the performance in this period except for a brief period where Meath rattled off 2-1 in 90 seconds.
Firstly, a dropping ball just outside the corner of the square was not dealt with by Wicklow and the ball dropped down to Mark McCabe who fired past Jackson into the net.
Moments later, Wicklow were left exposed from the kick out and a three on one situation allowed Joey Wallace to canter into the open goal area and palm in a squared pass from a Meath colleague.
McCabe added Meath's final point moments later as the Royal County kicked an impressive 23 scores with only seven wides over the course of 70 minutes.
Wicklow's final scores came from Gearoid Murphy's free and Eire Óg's Daniel Keane who also added a spark to the attack with his pace when introduced.
Wicklow were left to lick their wounds as they head into the league campaign in a couple of weeks with a home fixture against Waterford on Sunday 28th of this month.
A lot of new players were tested out over the course of these two fixtures so hopefully Wicklow will hit the ground running with an opening win.
Scorers - Wicklow: Gearoid Murphy (0-6 frees), Seanie Furlong (0-4, 3frees), Dean Healy (0-2) and Dan Keane (0-1). Meath: Joey Wallace, Mark McCabe (1-2), Donal Lenihan (1-2, 2 frees), Sean Tobin (0-4, 2 frees), David Toner (1-1), Graham Reilly (0-3), Paddy Fennelly (0-2), Adam Flanagan, Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee (0-1) each
Wicklow: Robert Lambert, Ciaran Hyland, Harry Wilson, Eoin Murtagh, Darragh Fitzgerald, Dean Healy, Jamie Snell, Kevin Murphy, Rory Finn, Theo Smyth, Mark Kenny, Padraig O'Toole, Gearoid Murphy, Seanie Furlong and Conor Byrne. Subs: Brendan Kennedy for Murtagh, Dan Keane for O'Toole, Conor French for Byrne, Mark Jackson for Lambert, Saoirse Kearnon for Wilson, PJ O'Keefe for Kenny, Gavin Murray for K Murphy, Dan Kelly for G Murphy, Conor Healy for Snell, G Murphy for D Keane (Blood)
Meath: David Gallagher, Shane Glynn, Luke Moran, Mickey Burke, Donal Keogan, Brian Conlon, Alan Douglas, Adam Flanagan, Harry Rooney, Mark McCabe, David Toner, Graham Reilly, Sean Tobin, Donal Lenihan, Paddy Fennelly. Subs Used: Bryan Menton for Toner (blood), Daragh Griffin for Reilly, Liam Ferguson for Burke, Bryan Menton for Flanagan, Shane McEntee for Rooney, Joey Wallace for Lenihan, Conor Dempsey for Conlon, Eoghan Greene for Glynn, Conor McGill for Dempsey (black card)
Referee: Stephen Murphy