Meath draw some comfort to nail down clash with Dubs
Meath 1-14 DCU 1-14
The prospect of an early-season jostle with old rivals Dublin was incentive enough for Meath to clinch an O'Byrne Cup semi-final spot on Saturday night.
The students came to Pairc Tailteann with a secret weapon in their armour - Sean Boylan, Meath legend and senior football boss for 23 years, was a member of the students' backroom team.
Boylan for one was hardly surprised that Meath booked their knockout spot the hard way, coming from three points down in the closing stages after squandering a five-point lead.
It looked as if the game had slipped from Meath's grasp after DCU led 1-13 to 1-10 on 55 minutes.
However, successive points from Bryan Menton, Nicky Judge and Graham Reilly drew the sides level before the hosts regained the lead following a Mark O'Sullivan pointed free. Diarmuid O'Connor kicked an equaliser for the students three minutes from the finish but the draw was sufficient to secure Meath's passage
Meath boss Mick O'Dowd praised his side's character. "The opening 10 minutes of the half was poor from our perspective," O'Dowd said.
"Overall, though, that's a great week's work. Its great to get another game before the start of the league campaign against Galway. We have a good chunk of lads who haven't played league or championship so the game against Dublin will be a great test."
Meath were boosted by an early goal from David Bray and by the 25th minute had built up a 1-5 to 0-3 advantage. Dublin U-21 star of last year, Conor McHugh, who was excellent all through, converted three frees, while corner-back Davy Byrne shot a peach of a point to reduce the deficit to two, 0-6 to 1-5, approaching half-time. Points late in the half from Graham Reilly and Mark O'Sullivan left Meath 1-7 to 0-6 ahead at the break.
Conor McGraynor netted for the students within 30 seconds of the restart and the sides were level on 40 minutes. A seventh point from McHugh left it 1-11 to 1-8 in favour of the students and they still led by that margin with a little over 10 minutes remaining.
With youngster Joey Wallace winning vital possession, Meath eventually regained the initiative. They had a chance of snatching victory in added time but 'keeper Paddy O'Rourke was wide from a long-range free.
scorers - Meath: D Bray 1-2, M O'Sullivan 0-5 (5fs), G Reilly 0-3, D Tobin, J Wallace, B Menton, N Judge 0-1 each. DCU: C McHugh 0-7 (5fs), C McGraynor 1-0, D Byrne 0-2, N Murphy, D Smith, E O'Connor, T Flynn, D O'Connor 0-1 each.
MEATH - P O'Rourke; D Tobin, C McGill, M Burke; C McConnell, D Keogan, S Melia; H Rooney, A Flanagan; G Reilly, M O'Sullivan, A Tormey; D Carroll, D Bray, J Wallace. Subs: N Judge for Melia, B Menton for Rooney, S Mattimoe fore Carroll (all h-t), J Queeney for Bray (56), S Carty for McConnell (62), R O'Dowd for O'Sullivan (68).
DCU - R O'Flaherty; J Smith, D Wrynn, D Byrne; J Bealin, C Moynagh, C Begley; T Flynn, E O'Connor; E Smith, C Meredith, D O'Connor; C McHugh, N Murphy, D Smith. Subs: C McGraynor for D Smith (h-t), R Connor for Murphy (54), C Daly for Connor (BC 66), B Donnelly for Flynn (68).
ref - S Johnson (Louth)