Burns praises 'intensity' as Down end long wait for victory
Down 1-13 Meath 0-14
The long wait is over for Down, who ended almost two years without a league or championship win to ease the pressure on manager Eamonn Burns.
Joe Murphy's second-minute goal was a bit fortunate, but having lost their last 10 league fixtures it was the slice of luck they needed to set them on their way in Páirc Esler.
Down, stung by criticism after their loss away to Clare two weeks ago, led from start to finish. They moved the ball quickly and played with a bite and aggression that has been absent for some time.
Burns was relieved to get his first win and Down's first since April 2015.
"There was plenty of intensity from start to finish, which was not evident in the previous two games. I thought we were worthy winners. When our back was to the wall we dug in," he said.
"There was a lot of speculation last week about the number of people we have at training, but the top end is 35, and this week was no different. Their commitment can't be questioned.
"We kept the pressure away from the players, but after the first two defeats you're obviously looking to make some headway in your third game, which we did."
Meath turned the ball over too often and never recovered from conceding the early goal. They were blown up for over-carrying and Paddy O'Rourke never moved as Joe Murphy flicked a dropping free into his net.
Down led 1-8 to 0-6 at half-time, with Meath not scoring from play for 29 minutes and relying on Donal Lenihan's free-taking.
Caolan Mooney, Darragh O'Hanlon and Kevin McKernan were influential and drove the home team forward.
Having not won for so long, Down were rocking at the end.
Full-back Gerard McGovern deflected Lenihan's goal-bound shot over the bar in injury-time to deny Meath an equalising goal and Andy McEntee accepted they are now in a relegation battle.
"Of course we are, but so are Down, so are Derry, there's a lot of teams. There are two ways of reacting and I hope we react the right way," he said.
"It's just hard to know which Meath team is going to turn up. We've got to find a bit of consistency."
Scorers - Down: D O'Hanlon 0-4 (3f), J Murphy 1-0, B O'Hagan 0-2, K McKernan 0-2, A Carr, C Maginn, R Johnston, C McGovern, J Johnston 0-1 each; Meath: D Lenihan 0-8 (6f), G Reilly 0-2, J Toher 0-2 (1f), D Keogan, B McMahon 0-1 each.
Down: M Reid 8; R McAleenan 7, G McGovern 7, D O'Hagan7; D O'Hanlon 8, C McGovern 6, C Mooney 8; P Turley 6, A Carr 7; K McKernan 8, C Maginn 6, J Murphy 6; S Millar 6, B O'Hagan 6, R Johnston 8. Subs: B McArdle 6 for G McGovern (48), J Johnston 6 for O'Hagan (49), M Poland 6 for Mooney (65), P Devlin NR for R Johnston (69), N Donnelly NR for McKernan (BC, 70).
Meath: P O'Rourke 7; D Keogan 7, C McGill 7, R O Coileain 7; W Carry 6, B Power 6, S McEntee 7; B Menton 6, J Toher7; A Forde 6, C O'Sullivan 6, C O'Brien 6; G Reilly 7, B Sheridan 7, D Lenihan 8. Subs: B McMahon 7 for O'Sullivan (HT), E Wallace 6 for O'Brien (48), D Toner 6 for McEntee (62).
Ref: Martin McNally (Monaghan).