Tuesday 16 January 2018

O'Dowd hails 'pride' as Royals destiny back in own hands

MEATH 1-17 SLIGO 2-12

THE Royal revival gathered momentum following a stirring comeback that left Sligo shell-shocked at Pairc Tailteann.

Nine points in arrears after 27 minutes, Meath eventually trailed by seven at half-time, 2-9 to 1-5 following a dreadful opening-half display, before making what used to be a trademark revival.

Mick O'Dowd's side timed their comeback to perfection. They gradually clawed their way into contention, with relative newcomer Michael Newman leading the charge. The corner-forward, who finished with eight points, eventually drew the sides level from a free on 66 minutes.

Two minutes later, he had the home supporters on their feet as he converted another free, this time from 47 metres, to point his side into the lead for the first time.

Substitute Joe Sheridan then added to Sligo's misery with the insurance score in added time.

Manager O'Dowd reflected: "We moved the ball much faster in the second half but that was the message from the start of the game, that was the way we wanted to play it from the beginning, to move the ball fast and be accurate.

"We turned off mentally on a few occasions in the opening half and it cost us. We knew if we were patient and kept going at it point by point, the crowd would get behind us.

"I wouldn't say I was totally happy with the position we were in at half-time – it was another poor start and it is something we're going to have to sort out.

"We are still at the stage of trying to build consistency into the team. There is huge work being done and I'm delighted with that second-half display. It showed Meath supporters the work we are doing and the amount of passion and pride lads have to play for the county."

The win coupled with Fermanagh's victory over Cavan left Meath's destiny back in their own hands in the race for promotion. O'Dowd, though, wasn't thinking any further than the next match.

"We are still going game by game and if we can get a win against Antrim in Casement Park next Sunday that will leave us in a position at home to Fermanagh in the final round," he said.

Sligo took advantage of slackness in the home defence to find the net twice inside 12 minutes, through Shane McManus and Adrian Marren, to boost them to a 2-3 to 1-2 lead. The second goal from Marren came immediately after Stephen Bray had given Meath hopes a boost with a similar score at the other end.

The Connacht men then suffered a blow in the lead-up to half-time when talisman Mark Breheny was forced off with an injury.

Substitute Paddy Gilsenan ignited the Meath revival with a point within a minute of the restart and they were denied a goal following some heroic defending.

Centre-back Adrian McIntyre was Sligo's sole scorer in the third quarter, during which the hosts reduced the deficit to three points.

A fisted point from Brian Meade left it 2-10 to 1-11, but Sligo seemed to have weathered the storm as the impressive Marren pointed twice to leave four between them.

Sligo failed to add to their tally after that as wing-back Ciaran Lenehan (left) took his tally to three, before Graham Reilly and Newman picked off scores to maintain the Royals' push for promotion.

Man of the match: C Lenehan (Meath)

SCORERS – Meath: M Newman 0-8 (6f), C Lenehan 0-3, S Bray 1-0, B Meade, D Larkin, E Wallace, G Reilly, P Gilsenan, J Sheridan 0-1 each.Sligo: A Marren 1-5 (0-2f), S McManus 1-0, M Breheny 0-3 (1f), A McIntyre 0-2, K Cawley, P Hughes 0-1 each.

MEATH – P O'Rourke 7; D Keogan 6, B Menton 7, C Young 7; C Lenehan 9, E Harrington 6, D Dalton 8; B Meade 7, K Reilly 7; D Larkin 7, C Ward 6, P Byrne 6; E Wallace 7, S Bray 6, M Newman 8. Subs: G Reilly 7 for Ward (31), P Gilsenan 7 for Byrne (h-t), C Gillespie 7 for Harrington (h-t), B Farrell 6 for Bray (48), J Sheridan 6 for Wallace (62).

SLIGO – P Greene 7; C Harrison 7, J Martyn 7, R Donovan 6; K Cawley 7, A McIntyre 8, B Curran 7; S Gilmartin 7, J Kilcullen 7; B Egan 6, F Quinn 6, S McManus 7; M Breheny 7, P Hughes 7, A Marren 8. Subs: J Clarke 6 for Breheny (31), J Kelly 6 for McManus (53), N Murphy for Quinn (66).

REF – B Cassidy (Derry).

Irish Independent

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