Meath had only beaten Galway four times in their previous 19 league meetings so another loss would not have been out of the question. But what would have provoked an uproar would have been another second-half collapse.
A week earlier Royal supporters left Páirc Tailteann in a state of shock after Cavan had blown them away after the restart. And Mick O’Dowd’s men came so close to repeating that flop yesterday when they saw a nine-point interval lead transformed into a three-point deficit with four minutes left on the clock. There was a slight wind but both managers agreed it had minimal impact on proceedings. It was more a case of Galway not showing up for the opening half and Meath going missing after the restart.
But, unlike the Cavan catastrophe, Meath dug deep and rallied in the closing minutes to carve out a draw, the fifth time these sides have finished level in 20 league meetings.
Manager O’Dowd was rightly proud of the way his men, minus their captain Donal Keogan to a 10th minute black card, summoned the resolve for a great finish when Eamon Wallace and Graham Reilly both hit their third points of the game and sub Cian O’Brien landed an excellent equaliser.
“You saw what happened last Sunday where we were leading and ended up losing by seven points. Samething happened today, brilliant first-half, but when we lost that lead we were the ones that responded in the last five minutes with three scores. That’s why I am actually really really proud of the Meath players,” said O’Dowd.
Galway, who lost ace marksman Damien Comer to a black card before the break, trailed 1-8 to 0-2 after Mickey Newman pounced on a deflected backpass from Paul Conroy to his goalkeeper Manus Breathnach to shoot into an empty net.
But the introduction of Gary Sice and Danny Cummins injected a bit of power into the Tribesmen after the restart, with Shane Walsh, Eddie Hoard and Thomas Flynn picking off excellent points and while they were unable to close the deal, manager Kevin Walsh was proud of them.
“There’s plenty of teams that go in at half-time and find themselves in that position and wave the white flag. And that was really really important that these boys didn’t wave it.
“It’s a learning process for these lads. It’s a cheap lesson. This is a tough, tough league. There’s going to be teams taking points left, right and centre. Meath were hurting from last week, and they came out fighting. In fairness to them, they showed character as well and kicked a few unbelievable points at the end,” said Walsh.
E Hoare 0-4 (2f), S Walsh 0-3, P Conroy 0-2 (f), T Flynn 0-2, G Sice 0-1 (f), G O’Donnell 0-1, D Comer 0-1, A Varley 0-1.
M Newman 1-2, G Reilly 0-3, E Wallace 0-3, S Tobin 0-2 (2f), D Lenihan 0-1, C O’Brien 0-1.
M Breathnach; D Wynne, D Kyne, E Kerin; L Silke, G O’Donnell, J Heaney; T Flynn, P Conroy; E Tierney, E Hoare, E Brannigan; D Comer, A Varley, S Walsh.
F Hanley for Kyne (9-11 mins), Hanley for Kerin (17), G Sice for Tierney (35), D Cummins for Comer (35, black card), S Denvir for Brannigan (71), C Sweeney for Heaney (71).
C McHugh; C McGill, M Burke, D Keogan; J McEntee, P Harnan, A Douglas; H Rooney, G Reilly; S Tobin, C O’Sullivan, D Tobin; E Wallace, M Newman, D Lenihan.
N Judge for Keogan (12 mins, black card), R O Coilleann for Newman (51), C O’Brien for Judge (51), C Downey for S Tobin (67).
Conor Lane (Cork).