Early goal blitz helps Meath fight threat of relegation from Division Two but derby danger remains
MEATH 4-14 DOWN 1-14
They say a good start is half the work and two goals inside the opening three minutes helped Meath fight the threat of relegation and leave their future in their own hands ahead of next weekend's derby tie with Louth.
The win means the Royals visit Drogheda next weekend knowing that a win will see them safe in Division Two for 2019 while the Mourne men must win against Tipperary and hope for Louth to undo their neighbours in their rescheduled fixtures.
If Meath draw and Down win, it will come down to points difference between the Mourne men, the Royals and Cork.
It could have been all so different, however, as Connaire Harrison saw his goal chance saved inside 15 seconds by Andrew Colgan and a minute later the ball was in the net at the other end.
Donal Lenihan was cynically fouled when through on goal and dusted himself off to slot home the resultant penalty before livewire forward Cillian O'Sullivan put a goal on a plate for Graham Reilly, who palmed to the open net.
Down gradually got back into the game through the free-taking of Donal O'Hare and fine efforts from Harrison and Caolan Mooney but the gap was still five points at the break, 2-7 to 0-8.
It was nip and tuck throughout the second half but the home side always looked like piercing holes in the Mourne defence and substitute Padraig McKeever looked to have put the game beyond doubt with a goal on the hour mark.
Anthony Doherty strode forward from corner-back to respond instantly with a goal, however, after a sweeping move but that was as good as it got for the visitors.
Sean Tobin fired a rocket to the Down net in injury time to boost morale after two confidence-sapping defeats and leave it all down to two do-or-die clashes next weekend with a place in the League's second tier up for grabs.
SCORERS - Meath: D Lenihan 1-5 (1-0 pen, 0-1 '45, 3f), G Reilly 1-2, P McKeever 1-1, S Tobin 1-0, C O'Sullivan 0-3, P Kennelly, B Brennan, B Menton 0-1 each.
Down: D O'Hare 0-5f, A Doherty 1-1 (1f), C Harrison, C Mooney, D O'Hanlon (2f) 0-2 each, D O'Hagan, K McKernan 0-1 each.
MEATH – A Colgan; S Lavin, B Power, C McGill; J McEntee, D Keogan, S McEntee; B Menton, A Flanagan; E Wallace, B Brennan, G Reilly; C O'Sullivan, P McKeever, D Lenihan.
Subs: P Kennelly for Flanagan (half-time), J Wallace for B Brennan (51), S Tobin for E Wallace (59), B McMahon for McKeever inj (67), M Burke for S McEntee (70), T O'Reilly for Reilly (74)
DOWN – M Reid; C Flanagan, B McArdle, A Doherty; R Wells, N McParland, C Mooney; P Turley, N Donnelly; K McKernan, C Maginn, D O'Hagan; C Harrison, D O'Hare, R Johnston.
Subs: A Morgan for McKernan (black card 35), S Dornan for Johnston (45), S Miller for Donnelly and D O'Hanlon for Flanagan (both 53), R McAleenan for O'Hagan inj (57), D McKibbin for O'Hare (61).
REFEREE – B Tiernan (Dublin)