By full-time Cavan had remained six points clear but they were in no way flattered at Páirc Tailteann on Saturday night. It prompted Meath legend Anthony Moyles to tweet in frustration: “Meath result not good. Cavan have built the groundworks. Meath have neglected! Fans are delusional. Team I was involved with since 01 over.”
Yes folks, Meath are creaking and creaking badly.
Last year on these pages current selector and Irish Examiner columnist Trevor Giles wrote: “When you get unrealistic expectation, performances will fall short. Players and managers take the criticism... Some Meath people need to accept we are going through a bad cycle and get down to their local club and do something about it. ” It’s only now the majority of Meath fans are beginning to see the merit in his statement.
However manager Mick O’Dowd is still hopeful they can turn things around and avoid a second successive relegation.
“I thought Cavan played great stuff. We are four months working with these lads, three months really. You can see with Cavan that they are a bit more mature as a squad and with a system of play than we are.
“We played a bit better in the second half. We got the deficit down to five points but we needed to get it to four or three and we didn’t. We have a lot of work to do. It’s good to have Kevin Reilly back playing although we hadn’t intended putting him on so soon.”
But with the way they played on Saturday night that will prove a challenge. Cavan’s Cian Mackey was their tormenter in chief and the midfield duo of Gearoid McKiernan and Tomas Corr contributed four points from play with the former hitting three.
In contrast, Meath looked leaden-footed and Michael Newman, from a free after 18 minutes, was their only scorer in the first half. The Royals resumed with three changes in personnel, including the aforementioned Kevin Reilly.
However nine Cavan players got on target compared to just three by the losers. After the arrears were reduced to five points, scorers from Martin Reilly and Jack Brady steadied Cavan, who comfortably sailed home.
The dismissal of Niall McDermott in the final seconds on receipt of a second yellow card did not take anything from an impressive display.
Scorers for Cavan: G McKiernan, J Brady (2fs) 0-3 each, N McDermott, C Mackey 0-2 each, D Givney, M McKeever, T Corr, M Reilly, B Reilly 0-1 each.
Scorers for Meath: M Newman 1-3fs, G Reilly 0-2, D Larkin 0-1.
CAVAN: A O’Mara; O Minagh, K Brady, J McEnroe; D O’Reilly, A Clarke, J Hayes; T Corr, G McKiernan; C Mackey, M Reilly, M McKeever; J Brady, N McDermott, D Givney.
Subs: F Flanagan for Hayes (25), B Reilly for M Reilly (62), K Meehan for McKeever (65), D McKiernan for Corr (67), N Murray for J Brady (70).
MEATH: P O’Rourke; D Keogan, B Menton, S Curran; C Lenehan, E Harrington, D Dalton; C Gillespie, B Meade; S Crosby, P Gilsenan, P Byrne; B Farrell, G Reilly, M Newman.
Subs: K Reilly for Meade for Meade, D Larkin for Crosby, C Ward for Gilsenan (all ht), J Sheridan for Farrell (56).
REFEREE: M Higgins (Fermanagh).