Down hold on for long-awaited win
Down 1-13 Meath 0-14
Down's miserable losing streak finally came to an end in Páirc Esler last night as they led from start to finish against Meath to claim a first Allianz League win in almost two years.
They thoroughly deserved a win, but having gone so long without one they were nervously hanging on at the death, with full-back Gerard McGovern denying Meath an equalising goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Having lost 10 Allianz League games in a row stretching back to April 2015, Down needed a bit of luck - and they got it as early as the second minute.
Meath goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke was rooted to the spot as he misread the flight of Darragh O'Hanlon's dropping free, with Joe Murphy reacting quickest to flick the ball into the net. Donal Lenihan's point got Meath on the scoreboard - but they went a whole 29 minutes without scoring again from play as Down took over. Battling hard for each other, they won most of the kickouts and Barry O'Hagan was credited for scoring two points, although his second one in the 20th minute was clearly wide.
Conor Maginn, Darragh O'Hanlon and Aidan Carr scored from distance with Down growing in confidence.
Meath full-forward Brian Sheridan caused some problems early on but their lack of cohesion saw attack after attack break down, and Down counter-attacked smartly. Lenihan and James Toher converted Meath frees before Donal Keogan ended their long wait for a score from play in the 34th minute.
Ryan Johnston and Graham Reilly traded scores but Down were well in control, leading 1-8 to 0-6 at the break.
Meath needed to make something happen but couldn't get anything going in the second half. Down pushed forward with two points and strong running from Kevin McKernan.
Meath hung in the game somehow, mostly through the accuracy of Lenihan's free-taking, and Down looked nervous when Reilly's 70th-minute point left just three points between the teams. In the fourth minute of injury time Mourne full-back Gerard McGovern saved a Meath equalising goal attempt when he pushed Lenihan's effort over the bar.
Scorers - Down: D O'Hanlon 0-4 (3f), J Murphy 1-0, B O'Hagan 0-2, K McKernan 0-2, A Carr 0-1, C Maginn 0-1, R Johnston 0-1, C McGovern 0-1, J Johnston 0-1. Meath: D Lenihan 0-8 (6f), G Reilly 0-2, J Toher 0-2 (1f), D Keogan 0-1, B McMahon 0-1
Down: M Reid; R McAleenan, G McGovern, D O'Hagan; D O'Hanlon, C McGovern, C Mooney; P Turley, A Carr; K McKernan, C Maginn, J Murphy; S Millar, B O'Hagan, R Johnston. Subs: B McArdle for G McGovern (48), J Johnston for O'Hagan (49), M Poland for Mooney (65), P Devlin for R Johnston (69), N Donnelly for McKernan (BC, 70)
Meath: P O'Rourke; D Keogan, C McGill, R O Coileain; W Carry, B Power, S McEntee; B Menton, J Toher; A Forde, C O'Sullivan, C O'Brien; G Reilly, B Sheridan, D Lenihan. Subs: B McMahon for O'Sullivan (HT), E Wallace for O'Brien (48), D Toner for McEntee (62)
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).
Sunday Indo Sport