Lenihan strikes late to rescue Royals
Meath 1-13 Galway0-15
The natives moved a little more freely on their way out of Navan yesterday after reacquainting themselves with old ways.
This wasn't quite the smash and grab raids the Royals were famous for in the past but it's one they'll take nonetheless. Second best for much of the second half, Donal Lenihan struck for a goal in the 66th minute. From there they hung on grimly for what was only their fourth win over Galway from 20 attempts in the League.
Leading by double scores at the interval (0-8 to 0-4), Meath looked like their recent trend of second-half fade-outs would come back to haunt them once more.
With ten minutes to go they trailed by three playing against the wind. Galway, unbeaten and top of the table when they arrived in Pairc Tailteann, looked to have taken a step closer to a first return to the top flight since 2011.
But Meath were patient and efficient and cut the gap to one before Lenihan, who added to his burgeoning reputation by scoring 1-4 from play, struck for goal having been brilliantly picked out by Cillian O'Sullivan.
Johnny Heaney then cut the gap to one and Galway came looking for the draw. But Danny Cummins went for the Hollywood effort from the touchline and his shot bounced harmlessly wide. With that, their chance was gone.
"We just hung in and hung in," Meath boss Andy McEntee reflected. "We went three points down with 10 minutes to go and I'm sure people were saying 'same old story, same old story' and that's what was different.
"We worked an awful lot harder. The amount of turnovers in the first half would suggest that we were working harder than in any of the games so far this year and that continued right to the final whistle.
"You work hard enough, you usually get what you deserve and I think we got what we deserved today."
Both sides had their purple patches. Meath reeled off seven unanswered points at one stage in the first half but Galway should have scored at least one goal in that half.
The Connacht men had their period of dominance in the second half too. When Shane Walsh pushed them three clear in the 60th minute, they had outscored the home side by eight points to two since the restart.
"It was a funny kind of a game," Tribe boss Kevin Walsh reflected. "When the goal arrived the timing was wrong for us and it came against the run of play, we felt, but that's the way it is. You have to take your wins and losses and move on.
"The next three weeks will tell us if we're ready (for promotion) or not. If you don't go up then you're not ready for it, that's the way I look at it.
"I would rather go up without having a flukey kind of run in the League and maybe having a panel deep enough to take injuries and club commitments perhaps the following year.
"It's important this panel is deep enough that when we're ready to go up we prove that and then back it up."
Meath were visibly more solid in defence with Donnacha Tobin and Padraic Harnan back in the side, with Galway withdrawing Micheal Lundy before the half-hour mark. And their win means that they can look up rather than down ahead of the trip to Cork on Sunday week.
"If truth be known you're probably looking at the other end, trying to avoid a situation where you're going into the last couple of games needing a win to avoid relegation (had they lost)," admitted McEntee.
"That was important to us. Promotion? I know it's a cliche but the next match is Cork, we haven't even thought about anything else. That's the truth."
McEntee has targeted a consistency of performance for the rest of the League.
"Playing for Meath should be an honour and every time you play for Meath you have to bring certain qualities with you, and that's what we're trying to work on," he said.
"So doing it today and not doing it the next day would be the same as doing it against Derry and not doing it against Down; there are no excuses.
"That's the way we play, that's the only way to play. If we don't work hard we're average, in fact we're less than average. When we work hard enough we're okay, we'll certainly compete at this level and it's a matter of applying ourselves that way every time and then improving on our skills."
SCORERS - Meath: D Lenihan 1-5 (0-1f), C O'Sullivan, G Reilly 0-2 each, W Carry, D Keogan, A Forde, S Tobin (1f) 0-1 each. Galway: B McHugh 0-5 (1 '45', 3fs), P Conroy 0-3 (1f), M Daly 0-2, G O'Donnell, J Heaney, L Silke, S Walsh, T Flynn 0-1 each.
Meath - P O'Rourke 7; D Keogan 8, C McGill 7, D Tobin 8; W Carry 7, B Power 7, P Harnan 8; B Menton 6, J Toher 6; R O Coleain 6, C O'Sullivan 8, A Forde 6; B McMahon 6, G Reilly 7, D Lenihan 8. Subs: S Tobin 7 for McMahon (48), E Wallace 6 for Forde (51), A Flanagan 6 for Toher (55), J Wallace 6 for O Coileain (57), C O'Brien 6 for Wallace (BC 63), M Burke for Carry (BC 69).
Galway - R Lavelle 7; D Kyne 6, D Walsh 7, C Sweeney 6; G O'Donnell 7, G Bradshaw 6, L Silke 7; P Conroy 7, F O Curraoin 7; T Flynn 7, M Daly 6, E Brannigan 6; S Walsh 6, B McHugh 7, M Lundy 6. Subs: D Cummins 6 for Lundy (28), J Heaney 6 for Daly (62), G Sice for McHugh (68).
Ref - M Deegan (Laois).