John Davis’s charges were deserving winners but had to dig deep to overcome a resolute opposition driven on by the memory of last year’s narrow loss to Waterford.
Sinéad Hackett’s third-minute goal gave Meath the perfect start and though Sara-Louise Carr responded with a good point, scores from Aileen Donnelly, Hackett and Dolanput four between them.
Down showed their character though when hitting back with their own run of three points, kick-started by Carr.
She finished well after a 25m dash and her sister Fionnuala landed points from a 45 and free to reduce the margin to the minimum.
It was 1-5 to 0-6 at half-time but Sara-Louise Carr ended another strong run from the left by crashing a powerful shot beyond Emily Mangan five minutes after the resumption to put Down ahead.
Meath took over around the middle though and landed five of the next six points to open up a three-point advantage.
Nicola Braniff and Fionnuala reduced the margin to the minimum with two minutes of injury-time still remaining but it was Dolan who had the last word from a placed ball.
Scorers for Meath: S Hackett 1-2, A Donnelly, J Dolan 0-3 (2fs) each, K Troy, A Maguire, L Oakes 0-1 each.
Scorers for Down: F Carr 0-6 (5fs, 1 45), SL Carr 1-2, N Braniff 0-1.
MEATH: E Mangan; H Geraghty, C Coffey, F O’Neill; L Donoghue, A Thompson, A Keogh; AM Fagan, K Troy; E Guy, J Dolan, A Donnelly; A Maguire, S Hackett, K Hackett.
Subs: L Oakes for Guy (37), E Lynch for Maguire (53).
DOWN: C McCrickard; K Tinnelly, G O’Higgins, C McGovern; C Rocks, L McCrickard, E McCormick; P Gribben, M McNally; L McPolin, SL Carr, F Carr; N Mallon, L Hughes, C McGourty.
Subs: K McMullan for Mallon inj (21), O Maginn for McNally (30+1), K O’Higgins for Hughes (44), N Braniff for McPolin (57).
Referee: R McNicholas (Galway).