Louth 0-10 Meath 1-15
Luckless Louth failed to score in the entire second half as their championship jinx against Meath continued with the Royals running out 1-15 to 0-10 winners at Croke Park.
The Wee men remain winless against their neighbours since 1975 – a damning statistic to consider for Eamon McEneaney's charges, who built up a double scores lead midway through the first half.
Darren Clarke and JP Rooney (0-02 each) helped Louth go in at the break with a 0-10 to 0-06 buffer. Daithi Regan led the Meath scoring with 0-03 (2f).
But the Division Two champions lost their scoring touch after the break. Three points on the bounce had Meath firing and substitute Raymie Magee levelled at 0-10 apiece. Then just past the hour mark, Graham Geraghty lobbed in a free for Joe Sheridan to fist home the clinching goal.
Louth, off the back of their League success, were understandably buoyant coming into this Leinster SFC opener. Unchanged from their final replay win over Donegal last month, they were out to prove a point and played so in the first half.
Peter Curran opened the scoring for Meath after three minutes but Jamie Carr, JP Rooney and Darren Clarke quickly replied for the men in red. Scores from Regan (0-02) and Brian Farrell swamped a fine Mark Stanfield effort before Aaron Hoey, whose father Anthony was in the last Louth team to beat Meath, and captain Martin Farrelly raised white flags for a 0-06 to 0-04 Louth lead.
Louth added three more through Rooney (21 minutes), Christy Grimes (23) and Clarke (25) to push five points clear and Eamon Barry's Royals were in trouble.
Little was going Meath's way up front with Geraghty and Sheridan being held scoreless. However, two frees from corner forwards Regan and Farrell, sandwiching Louth's final score of the half from Paddy Keenan, reduced the gap to four for the interval.
Meath opened the second half in style with a trio of frees from Farrell (0-02) and Regan – taking both their tallies to 0-04 (3f). Crucially, championship debutant Brendan Murphy did well to save at the feet of Clarke at the other end.
Regan then missed two gilt-edged chances and paid the price when being replaced by Magee. The levelling point arrived soon after from Magee and it was game on.
Two points in the 58th-minute from Geraghty and Curran pushed Meath 0-12 to 0-10 clear and Meath's hunger was there for all to see. Sheridan's goal which saw him nip in ahead of Louth full-back Colin Goss had the green-shirted hordes in raptures and Sheridan killed the game off with a late 45-metre free.
Meath advance to a May 28 quarter-final clash with Wexford, while Louth will lick their wounds for the All-Ireland qualifiers draw.
S Reynolds; D Brennan, C Goss, J Carr (0-01); J O'Brien, P McGinnity, J Neary; M Farrelly (0-01) (capt), P Keenan (0-01); C Grimes (0-01 (1f)), M Brennan, M Stanfield (0-01); JP Rooney (0-01), A Hoey (0-02), D Clarke (0-02).
B Murphy; N McLoughlin, K Reilly, J Donoghue; S MacGabhann, C King (0-01), S Kenny (0-01); N Crawford (capt), M Ward; P Curran (0-02), J Sheridan (1-01, 1 '45), P Byrne; D Regan (0-04 (3f)), G Geraghty (0-01), B Farrell (0-04 (3f)).
R Magee (0-01) for Regan.
Jimmy White (Donegal)