Colm O'Neill hits top form as Cork beat Meath

Colm O'Neill hits top form as Cork beat Meath
Colm O'Neill of Cork in action against Harry Rooney of Meath. Pic: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

By Paul Keane

Cork 2-16 - Meath 1-15: Colm O'Neill showed a timely return to top form with 1-6 in Navan to ease Cork to an important Allianz football league Division 2 win.

Boss Ronan McCarthy admitted afterwards that his experienced All-Ireland medal winner wasn't on his game in Round 4 when they lost to Cavan.

But the Ballyclough man showed all his artistry and industry at Pairc Tailteann where he shot all but two of his points from open play and generally tortured Meath's overwhelmed defence.

O'Neill grabbed the goal his performance deserved in the 69th minute, finally killing off the under pressure hosts, and he was also involved in John O'Rourke's early goal.

O'Rourke finished with 1-1 and along with Mark Collins' seven-point contribution, the full-forward line returned a healthy 2-14 on the day.

Donncha O'Connor, a forward colleague of O'Neill when Cork won the All-Ireland in 2010, came on for his first action of 2018.

The result leaves Cork in the promotion picture with ties against Clare and Roscommon remaining though Meath are battling at the other end following three straight defeats.

They lost centre-back Brian Power to an injury-time dismissal, for his second booking, following a melee that also led to Collins being black carded.

A great start stood to Cork who opened up a five-point lead after 12 minutes and rarely looked troubled from there on despite a couple of Meath bright spells.

The visitors led 0-4 to 0-2 when they hit Meath on the break for a well worked goal that put significant early daylight between the teams.

Sean White and O'Neill combined on the right and when O'Neill's shot was only parried by Meath 'keeper David Gallagher, John O'Rourke bundled the ball in from close range.

Mark Collins of Cork in action against Donal Keogan of Meath. Picture: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Mark Collins of Cork in action against Donal Keogan of Meath. Picture: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

The hosts responded with four unanswered points though largely operated in Cork's slipstream for the remainder of the game.

Donal Lenihan scored two of those four points for Meath but, just like their last home game against Clare, they suffered from poor first-half shooting with a number of point attempts falling short into the 'keeper's arms.

Lenihan's third point of the game in the 21st minute left Meath just one behind, 1-4 to 0-6 and got the home crowd going but Cork finished the half strong to reassert their authority.

This time it was the Leesiders who hit four points in a row, comprising a brace of scores each from Collins and O'Neill.

Collins closed out the first-half scoring after a great catch at midfield by key man Ian Maguire and Cork looked well in control at 1-9 to 0-7.

The second-half panned out upon expected lines with Meath raising their game but not near enough to reel in the Munster men.

Cillian O'Sullivan was Meath's best player in the second-half and scored four points.

Corner-back Seamus Lavin also clawed back a goal six minutes into injury-time but that merely put some gloss on the scoreline.

By that stage Cork had wrapped up their third win from five outings with Collins and O'Neill consistently picking off points throughout the second-half.

Collins also set up defender Matthew Taylor for a point though defender Brian O'Driscoll did limp off the pitch after pulling his hamstring.

Scorers for Cork: Colm O'Neill 1-6 (0-2f), Mark Collins 0-7 (0-4f), John O'Rourke 1-1, Sean White 0-1, Matthew Taylor 0-1.

Scorers for Meath: Cillian O'Sullivan 0-4 (0-2f), Donal Lenhihan 0-4 (0-4f), Seamus Lavin 1-0, Graham Reilly 0-3, Thomas O'Reilly 0-2, Ben Brennan 0-1 (0-1f), James McEntee 0-1.

CORK: Mark White; Kevin Flahive, Jamie O'Sullivan, Kevin Crowley; Tomas Clancy, Brian O'Driscoll, Matthew Taylor; Ian Maguire, Cillian O'Hanlon; Kevin O'Driscoll, Sean White, Ruairi Deane; Mark Collins, Colm O'Neill, John O'Rourke.

Subs: Michael McSweeney for Deane (39), Conor Dorman for B O'Driscoll (39), Michael Hurley for Sean White (62), Cian Kiely for Crowley (66, black card), Donncha O'Connor for O'Neill (70), Peter Kelleher for Kevin O'Driscoll (70). Collins black card 76, not replaced.

MEATH: David Gallagher; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Donal Keogan; Mickey Burke, Brian Power, Shane McEntee; Bryan Menton, Brian Conlon; Graham Reilly, Ben Brennan, James McEntee; Cillian O'Sullivan, Thomas O'Reilly, Donal Lenihan.

Subs: Harry Rooney for Burke (31), Eamon Wallace for Brennan (54), Sean Tobin for O'Reilly (62), Padraig McKeever for Lenhihan (65), Bryan McMahon for Shane McEntee (69).

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).

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