Meath 2-08 Armagh 0-13
Armagh staged a valiant second half fightback but goals at the start of each half helped Meath prevail in this NFL Division 2 opener in Navan.
Stephen Bray (3 minutes) and Jamie Queeney (36) both found the visitors' net to set Eamonn O'Brien's men on the right road.
Bray's goal was set up by his brother David and Meath foraged into a 1-06 to 0-06 half-time lead, with a wasteful Armagh missing the services of late cry-off Ronan Clarke.
Clarke’s place in the side was taken by Gareth Swift but he and his fellow Armagh forwards struggled to turn possession into points, hitting six wides by the half-hour mark.
Steven McDonnell landed a 26th minute for Armagh’s third point, but by that time Meath had registered 1-04, with David Bray, Graham Reilly, Chris O’Connor and Queeney grabbing points.
Indeed, O’Brien’s men could have notched further goals, Peadar Byrne producing an awful finish with Paul Hearty’s goal yawning and Queeney’s fisted point came when David Bray was in an unmarked position.
But Meath let the intensity drop for the remainder of the opening period and Armagh, with Aaron Kernan and Charlie Vernon driving them on, closed the gap back to three points as Vernon and McDonnell (0-02) notched scores.
However, that good work was undone just after the restart as Mark Ward won a free from the throw-in, pumped a high ball in and Queeney fielded it before beating goalkeeper Hearty with a measured finish to the top right corner.
Armed with a 2-06 to 0-06 lead, Meath worryingly laboured once again as Cian Ward missed a couple of ‘45s and the initiative was back with the Orchard men when they pushed Kernan into attack, and Finnian Moriarty, Kieran Toner and Vernon began to see more ball.
Paddy O’Rourke’s side strung together six points, the last two coming from the increasingly influential McDonnell.
2003 Footballer of the Year McDonnell briefly levelled the game, but the Pairc Tailteann faithful breathed a sigh of relief when a free from David Bray ended a 25-minute scoreless spell for the Royals.
And with substitutes Anthony Moyles and Seamus Kenny providing a settling influence and midfielder Nigel Crawford winning some crucial balls, Meath were able to see out the win with Bray and Vernon swapping late points.