O’Dowd’s men had shown superb spirit to battle back from a four points deficit in the last 10 minutes with sub Dalton McDonagh hitting three points in an impressive cameo. Andrew Tormey’s point looked to have completed the recovery before the Oak Leafers hit back with the last attack but the Meath manager wasn’t too disappointed to have been pegged back.
“It didn’t really matter if we got one point or two in the game but it was important to get at least one with the way the table is going,” explained the Meath manager, “Obviously we need to beat Laois next Sunday but we would have needed to beat them even if we had won. While you would be disappointed to lose the lead with the last kick of the game, at one stage in the second half we were four down and would have taken a point so we are delighted.”
A disjointed game saw the visitors arrive with a conservative approach that the hosts struggled to break down despite passing up three clear early goal chances with Meath ‘keeper Conor McHugh in good form.
Meath passed up a superb chance of their own when Michael Newman refused to square the ball to Donnacha Tobin but the corner forward made amends when he blasted home a Torney knock down for the opener.
Derry still dominated and when Daniel Heavron fired home an excellent goal on the half hour, the Ulster outfit looked in control but another defensive lapse gifted Meath a second through Tormey to send them into the break leading 2-4 to 1-6.
Niall Loughlin grabbed Derry’s second goal and when the Oak Leafers engineered a 2-11 to 2-7 lead with 10 minutes left, it looked game over. However Meath rallied with McDonagh’s superb cameo before Bell’s late show stopper.
“The spirit has never dropped inside the Meath dressing room,” added McDowd. “We know we have let leads slip in certain games but throughout most games we have played some good stuff albeit not for long enough periods. This was a test of character and the lads passed it.”
T Mallon; O Duffy, C McKaigue, K McKaigue; G McKinless, B Rogers, D Heavron (1-0); C McAtamney, M Lynch (0-2, 1f); J Kielt (0-4, 2f), C Bradley (0-2), B Heron (0-3, 1f, 1 forty-five); S Heavron, E McGuckin, SL McGoldrick.
N Forester for D Heavron, blood sub (14-19); N Loughlin (1-0) for S Heavron (26); C O’Boyle for E McGuckin (49); C Murphy for J Kielt (57); E Bradley for M Lynch (71). Black Card: N Loughlin, 48 (replaced by Ryan Bell (0-1));
C McHugh; D Keogan, C McGill, M Burke; S Lavin, C Finn, D Tobin; H Rooney, P Harnan; S Tobin (0-2, 1 forty-five), C O’Sullivan, J McEntee; D Lenihan, A Tormey (1-1), M Newman (1-6, 2f).
D Smith for S Lavin (22); D McDonagh (0-3) for D Lenihan (26); C O’Brien for D Tobin (47); C Downey for S Tobin (52); A Douglas for C Finn (55).
Shaun McLaughlin (Donegal)