Extra class tells as stylish Meath leave battling Down on the ropes
Meath 4-19 Down 2-15
There was a sense throughout this year's Christy Ring Cup that Meath didn't quite belong at this level, their presence never likely to be anything but fleeting. So it proved in yesterday's final as they ran Down ragged through the second half, coasting to a 10-point victory.
Down looked every inch the developmental side they are - starting the game in Croke Park with the hesitance of a kid at a teenage disco, nervous tension lacing their every move. Barry Slevin, Jack Regan, Damien Healy and Adam Gannon all pointed for Meath in the opening minutes to make Down's task all the more daunting, and in the 14th minute they were on the canvas. Gannon turned Tom Murray inside out on the left flank and then made a beeline for goal, burying his shot past Stephen Keith.
Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.
Gannon's reign of attacking terror would last all afternoon, the slick, agile full-forward emerging after the interval and blitzing past two defenders before squaring the ball to Nicholas Potteron, who buried his chance.
The way they began, it would have been easy for Down to roll over, but the Mourne men clawed their way into the game through the opening half. Shortly before half-time Eoghan Sands was dragged down and Paul Sheehan put the resulting penalty where Shane McGann couldn't get it: low to the corner.
Minutes later Daithi Sands broke past two Meath defenders before finding the same bottom corner of the net, leaving Down just a point behind at the break: 2-8 to 1-12. But then came that Gannon goal, the switch that seemed to ignite Meath. Down wouldn't go away, however, hitting the next three points to draw within two after 40 minutes. But that was as good as it got. They could do little about what happened next, a long-range shot from Alan Douglas rebounding off the upright and into the path of Gannon, who buried it into the back of the net.
By then the fight had gone out of Down, Meath turning on the style as subs Potterton, Callum O'Sullivan and Joey Keena injected a jolt of attacking energy to put the match out of sight.
Down could only manage a single point in the last 20 minutes, while Meath put six more on the board to draw seven clear as full-time approached.
With 72 minutes on the clock a slick catch and hand-pass by Keena gave Callum O'Sullivan a clear shot at goal. His first effort was saved by Keith but he made no mistake with the second.
"We've shown throughout we are the leading light in this competition," said Meath manager Nick Fitzgerald. "We have the tried-and-tested players and I always felt if we got on top of that Down team we could dispose of them, but they showed their mettle and fought back. Having the experience in the Joe McDonagh [Cup] stood to us."
Scorers - Meath: A Gannon 2-3; J Regan 0-9 (5f, 2 '65); N Potterton 1-1; C O'Sullivan 1-0; B Slevin 0-2; A Douglas, D Healy, J Keena, S Brennan 0-1 each. Down: P Sheehan 1-8 (1-0 pen, 6f); D Sands 1-1; D Toner 0-2; M Fisher 0-2 (1f); E Sands, McManus 0-1 each.
Meath: S McGann; G Murphy, D Kelly, S Whitty, S Brennan, K Keoghan, J Kelly, S Geraghty, C McCabe, D Healy, B Slevin, J Regan, C McGowan, A Douglas, A Gannon. Subs: N Potterton for Slevin (ht), S Morris for Kelly (50), J Keena for McGowan (50), C O'Sullivan for Gannon (61), C Ó Mealóid for Douglas (70)
Down: S Keith, T Murray, C Taggart, D Mallon, M Fisher, J McManus, M Conlon, P Savage, L Savage; D Toner, P Sheehan, T Prenter, D Sands, E Sands, O McManus. Subs: G Hughes for Savage (22), M Patterson for Murray (ht), C O'Prey for Prenter (42), R Blair for McManus (61), R McCusker for Sheehan (65).
Referee: S Stack (Dublin)
Sunday Indo Sport