A dreary afternoon under Baltinglass Hill was brightened by the restless work-rate of the visitors as they hunted and shielded in packs.
They had this game wrapped up and had stuck a bow on it by the 45th minute when the promising Padraig McKeever goaled after Meath had led by nine points, 2-6 to 0-3, at the break.
Manager Mick O’Dowd said his team’s total of 15 wides wasn’t pleasing but wasn’t complaining too much after such a comprehensive victory.
“We really wanted to get four games at least in the O’Byrne Cup, so we needed to get a win to ensure that. The first-half was very good, the attitude was excellent. In the second half, and a little bit in the first half, our shooting wasn’t great.”
All but one of Meath’s scores came from play as they succeeded in regularly isolating Wicklow players and hassling them into coughing up possession before counterattacking.
As Wicklow struggled at the kick-out, last year’s Leinster runners-up were relentless in driving forward in support of one another, McKeever and Carroll combining impressively with Graham Reilly in feeding the Bray brothers, Stephen and David, inside.
“It was good and it could have been more,” said O’Dowd of Meath’s score total from play. “We were happy with that. A lot of those goal chances, the right option was taken. It was fed to a fella tapping into an empty net and that’s what you want to do.”
None of Wicklow’s six starting forwards scored a point in the game, one coming from each of their half-back line in the first half.
Harry Murphy said a training session on top of a third game in seven days may have impacted on his team’s performance.
“They got a goal early on which sort of put us on the back foot a bit. We weren’t at the races at all in the first half.
“I was talking to Mick there — they (Meath) hadn’t done any training during the week. They were targeting this game, they wanted to get another game out of it, whereas we haven’t got that luxury, we were training away.
“Our big one is the first round of the league against London and it showed, Meath were sharper, much sharper. We got the three competitive games out of it and that’s what we wanted at the start of the competition.
“We were very flat-footed. Meath adapted to the conditions much better, were much stronger and more physical than us. Meath were a better side all round.”
O’Dowd admitted Meath fans would have preferred a semi-final duel with Dublin instead of DCU next weekend. “The Dubs in Navan would have been great but sure DCU have plenty of Dubs playing with them,” he smiled.
He also confirmed forwards Eamonn Wallace and Mickey Newman should be fit for Meath’s Division 2 opener against Galway next month.
Scorers for Wicklow: J Sheerin, S Furlong (1-0 each); P McLoughlin, D Healy, K Murphy, P Dalton, A McLoughlin (free) (0-1 each).
Scorers for Meath: D Bray (0-1 free), P McKeever (1-2 each); S Bray (1-1); D McDonagh (1-0); G Reilly (0-2); D Carroll, D Lenihan, S Kenny (0-1 each).
WICKLOW: R Lambert; C Hyland, M O’Brien, M Staines; D Healy, P McLoughlin, K Murphy; N Gaffney, R Finn; C Murphy, J Stafford, A Merriman; D Odlum, S Furlong, P McWalter.
Subs: J Manley for M O’Brien (27); P Dalton for C Murphy, J Sheerin for A Merriman, A McLoughlin for D Odlum (all h-t); P Cunningham for P McWalter (46).
MEATH: C McHugh; M Burke, S Curran, C Young; D Dalton, E Harrington, D Tobin; C Sheridan, C Gillespie; P McKeever, D Carroll, G Reilly; D Bray, S Bray, D Lenihan.
Subs: S Kenny for D Tobin, D McDonagh for S Bray (both inj h-t); P Gilsenan for G Reilly, D Larkin for D Dalton (both 50); B McMahon for D Lenihan (55); D McQuillan for S Curran (inj 64).
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois)