DUNBOYNE prevailed in the semi-final on a technicality, but there was no doubting their superiority on the field of play in an undistinguished Meath final yesterday.
BLACKHALL GAELS 0-8
Meath SFC Final
DUNBOYNE prevailed in the semi-final on a technicality, but there was no doubting their superiority on the field of play in an undistinguished Meath final at Navan yesterday, in front of a crowd of 3,000.
St Peter's only got to the final after their semi-final conquerors Navan O'Mahonys erroneously used four subs in extra-time, but they rocked local rivals Blackhall Gaels by surging 1-2 to 0-1 ahead after seven minutes despite playing against the wind. Subsequently the 2003 champions were playing catch-up.
The goal came when county ace Tommy O'Connor, set up by Stephen Moran, finished clinically, firing low to the left of goalkeeper Martin Whelan.
Dunboyne, whose only previous title win was in 1998, went on to lead by 1-5 to 0-4 at half-time. And the door appeared to have been closed on Blackhall, who started with 10 of their successful 2003 side, when full-back Paul Nestor was sent off after a second yellow card on 40 minutes.
The winners were forced to weather the storm in the ensuing play, with Blackhall upping their skill and work-rate levels to shoot two points on the trot to narrow the margin to 0-8 to 1-7 after 58 minutes.
However, right-corner forward Ger Robinson shattered Gaels' victory hopes just before the finish, when he brilliantly fielded a long clearance, and then almost immediately swung over a superb point with his left foot.
Blackhall boss Gordon Ward was furious with the sending off of Nestor. "I think Paul was definitely victimised today," fumed Ward. "The first yellow card was a very flimsy one. And for the second one, the Dunboyne player he tackled pleaded for him not be be sent off."
Meath goalkeeper David Gallagher, who played at centre-back for Dunboyne, paid tribute to Robinson for his contribution to the title success. "When we were only two points ahead, it was very worrying, as we would have been in real trouble if Blackhall had scored a goal," said Gallagher.
"But then Ger scored a fantastic point, and it was going to be very difficult for Blackhall after that."
The uncertainty about the outcome maintained interest throughout. But the overall standard was disappointing, with the exchanges often permeated by too much scrappy and unimaginative play, and new Meath supremo Eamonn Barry, who was in attendance, won't have learned a lot.
Blackhall midfielder Anthony Moyles felt that the occasion got to some of his team mates.
"A good few of our lads froze on the day, and although we played with a lot of heart and spirit in the second half, our first half performance left us with too much to do," he said.
SCORERS - Dunboyne: G Robinson 0-3 (2f); T O'Connor 1-0; S Moran 0-2; C Brennan, Denis Gallagher, A O'Connor 0-1 each. Blackhall Gaels: S Whelan 0-5 (4f); G Beirne, T Brosnan and M Crampton 0-1 each.
DUNBOYNE - J O'Connor; B Watters, D Sweeney, C Clarke; C Brennan, David Gallagher, G Watters; N Crawford, S McGarrell; Denis Gallagher, T O'Connor, S Moran; G Robinson, C O'Donoghue, A O'Connor. Sub: A McEntee for O'Donoghue (50)
BLACKHALL GAELS - M Whelan; D O'Neill, P Nestor, B Moyles; J Joyce, G Beirne, A Dalton; A Moyles, N O'Hora; S Nally, M Ferris, N Nestor; S Whelan, T Brosnan, M Crampton. Subs: J Meyler for Crampton 28; D Byrne for Nally 35; B McKeown for Meyler 48; J Callinan for O'Neill 55.
REF - J Henry (Kilskyre)