Tuesday 11 December 2018

Colm O'Rourke's View: Tyrone v Meath

Tiernan McCann. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Tiernan McCann. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

This was no epic but nobody left Pairc Tailteann in Navan before half seven. It was exciting, close, a little short of quality and laced with plenty of controversy. Meath were denied a penalty early on and there were loud calls for a last-minute free which could have meant even more extra-time.

Referee Paddy Neilan was at the centre of the controversy. He decided early on that the advantage rule was in fact a disadvantage one and Tyrone suffered just as much as Meath. Late in normal time Tyrone intercepted a Meath break out and with open road ahead the referee gave them a free in which they missed.

Tyrone were the dominant side early on and Meath were happy to get to half-time as the visitors missed a succession of chances, with at least three goals squandered. If there has been unrest inside and outside the camp recently the style did not change. A lot of hand-passing with a sharp injection of pace coming through runners from half-back, Frank Burns and Tiernan McCann causing plenty of problems as they cut Meath apart. Meath were playing similarly but there was not the same pace aside from James McEntee who was able to do the same to Tyrone. And Meath never quite got to grips with the Tyrone short kick-outs. When it went long Meath won a lot of ball.

Meath were much better in the second half and were economical in possession while Tyrone continued to rack up wides. A Meath free hit the post in the last minute which could have put them two up; it left the door open and a necklace of hand-passes led to the equaliser with the last kick of the game.

Tyrone were quick out of the blocks in extra time but again Meath fought bravely to reel them in from five down. Yet time waits for no man and the referee had the last call.

Tyrone were one ahead at the only point that counted yet they still look a very flakey side. There is no long shadow being cast any more and they do not look like All Ireland contenders, which is the only yardstick which Tyrone measure themselves by.

A bad year for Meath ends with their best performance but progress is only possible when bravery is matched by quality. There was any amount of the former and less of the latter.

Tyrone are still in the game but few will fear them on this show.

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