Meath rally late over Sligo to end winless streak in the qualifiers
MEATH 0-14 SLIGO 1-9
ROYAL Meath’s barren years without a victory in the All-Ireland qualifier series ended at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday evening with a late flurry of scores to snatch a hard-earned victory.
Appropriately, the win came against a Connacht side, for their last back door win was in July 2011 when Meath defeated Galway in a second round match in Navan before being ousted by Kildare in round three.
Since then, they have lost round four games to Laois in 2012, Tyrone, (2013), Armagh (2014) and Round two matches to Tyrone (2015) and Derry (2016).
Not a pretty record for a proud footballing county but the Sligo match was all about the team of 2017 and the need to find a way to stay alive in the championship.
Local supporters did not know what to expect from Andy McEntee’s team, citing an inconsistency in performance that has left some question marks to be answered.
The throw-in was delayed by ten minutes due to crowd congestion outside the ground, and before a ball was touched, referee Noel Mooney flashed a yellow card at Meath’s Brian Power for a tussle with Mark Breheny of Sligo.
Once it started, Meath got the first score with a point from a free by Donal Lenihan after two minutes.
Breheny equalised in the fourth minute and from then on, it was end to end football in the first-half, if not of the highest standard or particularly rousing for the 7,212 in attendance.
Adrian Marren kept Sligo ticking along with four points, three from frees and one via a ‘45, while Meath’s scores were spread around five players with Lenihan on two points from frees their highest scorer.
The sides were level on 0-6 each when Sligo gouged out a goal that sent them into interval leading by 1-6 to 0-6.
John Kelly was twice involved in the move down the central area when he got the ball to Ger O’Kelly-Lynch who knocked the ball into the net from close range.
Meath needed an early strike in the first-half and a Graham Reilly point, followed by another from Cillian O’Sullivan left them just one behind after 42 minutes.
O’Kelly-Lynch raised a white flag for Sligo almost immediately, leaving the score 1-7 to 0-8.
A Lenihan skyscraper of a shot that went over the bar in the 46th minute was greeted by massive cheers as the home crowd got behind their team.
Sligo lost talisman Charlie Harrison to injury at that point. He was replaced by Noel Gaughan.
The battle continued, and finally Meath equalised, with a powerful strike from 25 metres by Sean Tobin in the 54th minute.
In the next Meath attack, Graham Reilly was brought down by Brendan Egan, who was injured and received a black card once he received treatment.
The agony continued for the home followers as Neil Ewing edged the visitors ahead once more with 12 minutes to go.
But it all changed when Mickey Newman came on to replace Donal Lenihan as Newman slotted over two frees. Finally, Meath were ahead by 0-12 to 0-8 with three minutes of normal time left.
Five minutes were added by the ref, so it was all to play for, and with two minutes on the clock, Sean Tobin hammered over Meath’s 13th score, giving them a tiny bit of breathing space.
And Tobin went one better, slotting another score in the 75th minute.
Scorers: Meath: D Lenihan 0-3 (2f); S Tobin 0-3 (1 45) G Reilly 0-2; J McEntee 0-1; R Jones 0-1; S McEntee 0-1; C O’Sullivan 0-1; M Newman 0-2 (2f)
Sligo: A Marren 0-4 (3f, 45); G O’Kelly-Lynch 1-1; S Tobin 0-1; N Murphy 0-1; N Ewing 0-1; D Kelly 0-1
Meath: P O’Rourke; M Burke, C McGill, B Power; P Harnan, D Keogan, S McEntee; B Menton, R Jones; J McEntee, C O’Sullivan, R O’Coilean; G Reilly, S Tobin, D Lenihan.
Subs: J Toher for R Jones (inj 15); B Conlon for B Power (h.t); M Newman for D Lenihan (61); D Tobin for P Harnan (64);
Sligo: A Devaney; R Donovan, G O’Kelly-Lynch, C Harrison; K Cawley, B Egan, J Kelly; A McIntyre, P O’Connor; N Ewing, M Breheny, N Murphy; S Coen, P Hughes, A Marren.
Subs: N Gaughan for C Harrison (46); K Cawley for J Kelly (48); K McDonnell for M Breheny (54); D Kelly for B Egan (b/card) 57; S Gilmartin for A McIntyre (66); C Davey for P O’Connor (72)
Ref: N Mooney (Cavan)