Braniff helps Down to turn the tide
DOWN 2-23 MEATH 1-19
Down battled back from nine points down to beat Meath and qualify for the semi-finals on Saturday.
The Mourne men had a terrible start in Newry as Meath scored 1-6 without reply inside 11 minutes -- Noel Kirby causing all sorts of problems at full-forward.
Kirby set up James Kelly for the opening goal in the 11th minute and Down didn't get their first point until the 12th minute. They hit eight wides in a first-half when Paul Braniff was unusually wasteful with placed balls.
Conor Mageean got a goal back for Down in the 15th minute, but Meath still led by 1-11 to 1-6 at half-time.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men when Meath's Sean Heavey and Down's Michael Hughes received straight red cards for a scuffle off the ball.
Down produced a great fightback in the second-half. The supply to the Meath forwards dried up as Down's midfield and half-back line controlled possession.
Suddenly, Down looked a different side. James Turley and Braniff found their range and tapped over important scores, as did substitute Caolan Bailie who put the sides level at 1-16 apiece after 53 minutes.
The game was still in the mix with five minutes to go but Down scored 1-1 in injury-time to pull away, Braniff netting a penalty.
Man of the Match: P Braniff (Down)
Scorers -- Down: P Braniff 1-8 (6f), A O'Prey, M Turley 0-3 each, C Mageean 1-0, P Sheehan, F Conway, C Bailie 0-2 each, D Hobbs, C Woods, A Savage 0-1 each. Meath: N Kirby 0-8 (6f), P Durnin 0-5, J Kelly 1-0, S Clynch 0-2, S Heavey, S Donoghue, J Togher, P Conneely 0-1 each.
DOWN -- S Keith; J Smyth, M Hughes, S Ennis; F Conway, C Woods, M Cunningham; A Savage, M Ennis; P Sheehan, P Braniff, A O'Prey; D Toner, M Turley, C Mageean. Subs: C Bailie for Toner (32), D Hughes for Mageean (47), D Hobbs for Sheehan (69).
MEATH -- S McGann; C Reilly, E Fitzgerald, W Mahady; J Togher, D Healy, E Keogh; S Morris, S Clynch; J Kelly, S Donoghue, C O Mealoid; S Heavey, N Kirby, P Durnin. Subs: P Conneely for Healy (47), C Fitzsimons for Donoghue (58), D Raleigh for Kelly (67).
REF -- E Hasson (Derry).