'It was hardly too complimentary' - Meath boss Any McEntee rages as Tyrone scrape home in epic
Tyrone 2-14 Meath 0-19
There was only one place to start with Andy McEntee in his post-match media briefing. The free that wasn't when James McEntee looked to be bundled over. Paddy Neilan's whistle never came and Meath wouldn't get a chance to snatch a draw. Their season was over.
Neilan left the field to a chorus of boos and flanked by Gardai after being confronted by McEntee at the finish.
"What did I say? I'm not too sure what I said. It was hardly too complimentary," the Meath boss said.
The Royals felt aggrieved on a number of fronts. The call not to give that late free came after they were denied strong claims for a penalty. They also felt that the Roscommon whistler played too long in normal time, with Cathal McShane's equaliser coming after the five minutes of injury-time had elapsed.
"We shouldn't be talking about referees, but here we are again talking about referees deciding games like that and everybody walks away," said McEntee. "The same happened in the hurling last weekend. And everyone is concerned about a speck of blood on Donal Lenihan's jersey and he has to come off the pitch for that, and we can't get things like that (decision at end) right. It's very hard to take."
The Meath squad left the pitch to warm applause, a recognition of their performance that had brought last year's All-Ireland semi-finalists to their knees.
"That's what they're capable of and it needs to be like that on a little bit more of a consistent basis. That's been the issue," said McEntee.
"But I'd never question any of those fellas, they put in a massive effort. These fellas put their lives on hold and then the whole thing gets decided by a couple of very poor decisions.
"That's the hard bit. Those fellas they make a mistake, they pay the price out there. They miss a free or they drop a ball or they foul somebody, they pay the price. What's the price for what went on out there today?"
Tyrone led by 1-6 to 0-7 at half-time in normal time but had squandered a couple of good goal chances. Meath led for the first time on 52 minutes and their cause was boosted when Tiernan McCann was shown a straight red card. Meath's Ben Brennan picked up a second yellow deep into injury-time as Tyrone manufactured their equaliser through McShane.
And when Harry Loughran palmed home a goal in the first half of extra-time, Tyrone looked home before Meath came back once more.
"There were lots of things that happened in the game and depending on which glasses you're looking through, you would say that was a foul or that wasn't a foul," said Tyrone boss Mickey Harte, whose side had a strong claim for a penalty waved away.
"The referee was in a difficult position. We each could have complained about a number of decisions but across the whole game, you'd have to say it was fairly even.'
McEntee hinted that he would take some time before deciding whether to return for a third season with Meath.
"This affects everybody. I've a family, all the management team have a family, all the players have families, wives, girlfriends, there's one or two kids in there," he said.
"So everybody gets affected by this. There's too much time, there's too much money. Everybody talks about the amount of money that's spent training teams, this isn't mickey mouse stuff any more."
Man of the match
Frank Burns (Tyrone)
Landed two vital points when Meath were in the ascendancy.
Wides: Tyrone 12 (5 in first half, 2 in ET); Meath 7 (2, 1)
Frees: Tyrone 26 (9, 5); Meath 17 (6, 3)
SCORERS - Tyrone: C McAliskey 1-8 (0-6fs), H Loughran 1-0, F Burns, C McShane 0-2 each, M McKernan, N Sludden 0-1 each.
Meath: B Brennan 0-6 (3fs), D Lenihan 0-4fs, J McEntee, C O'Sullivan 0-2 each, D Keogan, J Wallace, M Burke, S Glynn T O'Reilly 0-1 each.
Tyrone - M O'Neill 7; P Hampsey 7, R McNamee 7, HP McGeary 6; T McCann 6, F Burns 8, M McKernan 8; C Cavanagh 6, P McNulty 6; M Donnelly 6, N Sludden 6, C Meyler 7; C McShane 7, R Donnelly 7, C McAliskey 8. Subs: K McGeary 6 for Meyler, R Brennan 6 for HP McGeary (49), H Loughran 6 for R Donnelly (52), D McClure 6 for McNulty (63), R McNabb for McNamee (67), R O'Neill for T McCann (70), C Meyler for McKernan (79), C McCann for McShane (86), A McCrory for Hampsey (90).
Meath - A Colgan 7; S Lavin 7, C McGill 7, S Curran ; J McEntee 8, D Keogan 7, S Gallagher 8; B Menton 8, A Flanagan 8; C O'Sullivan 7, B Brennan 7, M Burke 7; J Wallace 7, G Reilly 6, D Lenihan 6. Subs: T O'Reilly 7 for Lenihan (55), E Wallace 6 for Burke (51), B McMahon 6 for J Wallace (58), C O'Brien 6 for Brennan for B Brennan (70), S Glynn for Gallagher (75), D O'Neill for McGill (80), D Lenihan for Lavin (83),
Ref - P Neilan (Roscommon)