MONAGHAN manager Malachy O'Rourke applauded his team's performance as they crushed Meath at Clones but won't allow his players to be lulled into complacency by this result.
The Farney men cruised through the first half to lead 0-13 to 0-1 at half-time, and while Meath raised their game in the second half, Monaghan did enough to gain an unexpectedly comfortable victory.
"When you get that big of a lead and there's a bit of a wind, you're always conscious that if they got a goal and a couple of points early on, it gets their tails up. Last week we had a good lead against Down and we squandered it, so we just wanted to make sure we didn't do that.
"Meath had been scoring big scores. The last day against Galway they went out and scored 3-18. We knew there was a lot of pace in them, but we held them to eight points and they got no goals.
"There was a lot of positives out of it, but there's a three-week break now. Every team reassesses where they are and gets a lot of done in that period.
"Our next game is away to Donegal. It's going to be a very tough game and if they beat us it would be all to play for again, but the most important thing is we're delighted with the performance.
"The boys are working hard in training and we just wanted to see that come through on the field and today it did. We're very pleased," he said.
Meath manager Mick O'Dowd was on the opposite end of the pleasure spectrum.
He could hardly believe the way his side were brushed into irrelevance by a focused, intense and effective display from the Monaghan players in the first half.
A 12-point half-time deficit looked like it would be too much to haul back, and as events transpired, Meath failed to even gain respectability.
O'Dowd summed it up succinctly, saying: "Their tackling was better than us, they were better at breaking ball, the accuracy of their passing was better than us, they just were better than us in the first half.
"We'll analyse it of course and see what we can learn from it. We've been doing a lot of good work. We showed that in Navan last Sunday and we'll show it again," he said.
Credit to Monaghan, they were formidable through all areas of the field in that opening 35 minutes.
Talisman Conor McManus, playing his first full 70 minutes since last autumn, was lively and dangerous, and finished with 0-7 (four frees) to his credit.
Padraic Keenan and Thomas Kerr, nominally wing-forwards, worked their socks off throughout on a roaming commission.
Midfielders Gavin Doogan and Paul Finlay bossed their immediate opponents Shane O'Rourke and Andrew Tormey, while at the back, the defence, marshalled by Drew Wylie and Colin Walshe, dominated the Meath attack.
Jack McCarron and Christopher McGuinness were a constant threat up front along with McManus.
Meath had to wait until the 25th minute to score their first point.
Cillian O'Sullivan was the man who got it, but at that stage Monaghan had eight on the board.
They tacked on another by Christopher McGuinness a minute after O'Sullivan's Meath score to make it 0-9 to 0-1.
After half-time, Meath manager Mick O'Dowd made three changes, bringing on David Bray for Graham Reilly, Eoghan Harrington for Eamonn Wallace, and David Larkin for Cillian O'Sullivan.
Bray notched up Meath's second point of the game from a 36th-minute free, but almost as fast as the Royals got a score, Monaghan came back at them, so there was no dramatic comeback.
The result could have been even more embarrassing for the visitors, as goalie Paddy O'Rourke blocked a goal-bound shot by Dermot Malone, and saved a penalty taken by McCarron.
Meath followers howled in outrage at the 52nd-minute penalty decision by referee Ciaran Branagan when Jack McCarron looked to have been pushed inside the box.
The Royals may have felt it was a soft penalty to be awarded, but the reality was that Monaghan were comfortable winners even without that penalty producing a goal.
Even goalkeeper Rory Beggan got in on the act, scoring three points from '45s.
Conor McManus commented: "We felt we possibly let a point go against Down, so it was important to respond with a win and that was our intention from the word go.
"It's early days yet, so we'll not be getting carried away."
On a personal note, McManus came through the game largely unscathed.
He had surgery on a hip in 2011, and was injured during the championship last summer. Since then he has been on a rehab programme to try and avoid further surgery.
"I'm managing my way through it, and it's going well," he said.
Scorers – Monaghan: C McManus 0-7 (4fs), J McCarron 0-4 (1f), R Beggan 0-3 (3 '45s), C McGuinness, T Kerr, F Kelly 0-2 each. Meath: M Newman 0-2 (1f, 1 '45), C O'Sullivan, D Bray (f), E Harrington, S O'Rourke, S Bray, D Larkin 0-1 each.
Monaghan – R Beggan 7; R Wylie 7, D Wylie 7, F Kelly 7; K Duffy 7, C Walshe 7, C Boyle 7; G Doogan 8, P Finlay 8; T Kerr 8, C McManus 8, P Keenan 8; D Malone 7, J McCarron 8, C McGuinness 8. Subs: K Hughes 6 for T Kerr (60); S Gallogly for C McGuinness (65); S Smyth for C McManus (67); K O'Connell for C Walshe (69).
Meath – P O'Rourke 6; D Keoghan 5, K Reilly 5, M Burke 5; P Harnan 5, B Menton 5, D Dalton 5; A Tormey 5, S O'Rourke 5; C O'Sullivan 5, D Carroll 5,G Reilly 5; E Wallace 5, S Bray 5, M Newman 6. Subs: D Bray 6 for G Reilly (h-t); E Harrington 6 for E Wallace (h-t); D Larkin 6 for C O'Sullivan (h-t); C Sheridan for A Tormey (62); B McMahon for D Carroll (64); P Gilsenan for S Bray (67).
Ref – C Branagan (Down)