The Royals were the unlucky ones as they finished level on points with the Rossies but lost out on the head to head.
Here, they trailed by three points with 13 minutes left but hit five unanswered scores in a storming finish to snatch victory and quash Cavan’s promotion hopes
There was a surreal atmosphere afterwards as respective managers Mick O’Dowd and Terry Hyland reflected on what might have been.
Royals boss O’Dowd was keen to look at the positives and the huge strides his young charges have made but also called for the fixture-makers to have a rethink.
“I think the fixtures seriously need to be looked at. You have the O’Byrne Cup, Sigerson Cup, U21 championship and seven pretty intensive league games all coming in January, February and March.
“The managing between the games is incredible, to try to have a fit 21 or 22 players available. There are also lads doing important exams in the middle of it, playing U21 on a Wednesday and then league on a Sunday. They’re talking about changing the rules of the game, they need to have a good look at the fixtures for a start.
“I’m not making excuses at all, I’m just stating the facts. Our next match now is in 10 weeks time against Wicklow in the Leinster championship.”
Cavan were attempting to win promotion for the second successive year but they squandered too many chances to be in the mix. “We probably had four goal chances in the game that we didn’t take,” Terry Hyland said afterwards. “That’s probably the story of the game as far as we’re concerned, we created the chances but we didn’t finish them.”
For long spells, it looked as if both teams wanted to remain in the comfort zone of Division 2, such was the diabolical finishing from the respective sets of forwards.
Cavan hit 11 of their 15 wides in the opening half at the end of which Meath led 0-6 to 0-5. The hosts
finished the half with two fine points from Shane O’Rourke and then led 0-8 to 0-6 by the 39th minute.
Cavan midfielder Gearoid McKiernan drew the sides level at 0-9 each and the Breffni men dominated for a spell after that with points from Dara McVeety, Niall Murray and Martin Reilly forging a commanding lead.
However, they failed to score in the final 13 minutes as Meath rallied. Mickey Newman scored from play and then a free before Bryan Menton drew the sides level.
In the last two minutes Stephen Bray and Eamon Wallace both fisted points to give the Royals the win.
M Newman (0-6, 4 frees), S Bray, S O’Rourke (0-2 each), J McEntee, M Burke, B Menton, E Wallace (0-1 each)
M Dunne 2f, M Reilly 1f (0-3 each), J McEnroe, D O’Reilly, T Corr, G McKiernan, D McVeety, N Murray (0-1 each),
P O’Rourke; C McGill, D Tobin, J McEntee; M Burke, D Dalton, B Power; C Gillespie, A Flanagan; G Reilly, P Harnan, M O’Sullivan; S O’Rourke, S Bray, M Newman.
J Farrelly; K Brady, J McLoughlin, R Dunne; J McEnroe, D O’Reilly, F Flanagan; T Corr, G McKiernan; D McVeety, R Flanagan, M Reilly; C Mackey, M Dunne, B Fitzpatrick.
B Cassidy (Derry).