Meath 1-13 Limerick 2-09
Meath had to survive a furious late rally by Limerick to keep their all-Ireland dream alive, squeezing through to the SFC quarter-finals with the narrowest of Qualifier wins over Limerick at Portlaoise.
But they face Mayo next Sunday without ace attacker and captain Stephen Bray, who received a straight red card in the closing stages.
Bray’s value to the team is immense. He was one of their best players at O’Moore Park, hitting four excellent points from play.
Manager Eamon O’Brien will also concerned by the manner in which his side allowed a six-point lead to slip away as Limerick plundered two goals in the final quarter.
Ian Ryan’s early Limerick point from a free brought a response from Cian Ward, also from a placed ball, and in the 12th minute, the Royals struck for a goal.
It was Ward who dribbled past two defenders before finishing with precision past a helpless Sean Kiely.
Earlier, Kiely had denied Peadar Byrne with a wonderful save, after Ward had sent the wing forward through with the perfect pass.
Stephen Bray hit a couple of points to open up a five points lead, thanks to the ball-winning ability of Nigel Crawford at midfield.
Stephen Kelly’s three points brought Limerick back into it, and midfielder John Galvin powered through only to send a crossing shot just wide at the far post.
A perfect example of swarm tackling turned over possession and crafted the opportunity which David Bray finished with a point, and at the break, Meath led by 1-6 to 0-5.
Limerick had wind advantage in the second half, but Meath increased their advantage through all-action corner back Chris O’Connor.
And with the assistance of goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke’s massive kick-outs into the breeze, the Royals pressed on, with Byrne hitting a couple, one of which should have been a three-pointer.
But the Munster men grabbed a lifeline in the 48th minute in the form of a Seanie Buckley goal. The Limerick skipper somehow managed to steer the ball past a clutch of defenders and goalkeeper O’Rourke to re-ignite his side’s challenge.
Meath rallied again for Stephen Bray to restore their five points lead, but Limerick grabbed a second goal on 57 minutes, punched home by substitute Jim O’Donovan.
Meath were reduced to 14 men on 66 minutes when Stephen Bray received a straight red card, but they held on for a place in the last eight.
Meath: P O'Rourke, C O'Connor (0-2), A Moyles, E Harrington, S Kenny, C McGuinness, C King (0-1), N Crawford, B Meade, P Byrne (0-2), J Sheridan, S Bray (0-4), D Bray (0-1), B Farrell (0-1), C Ward (1-2, 1f, 1 ’45).
Subs: M Burke for Byrne (58)
Limerick: S Kiely, J McCarthy, S Gallagher, M O'Riordan, S Lavin, S Lucey, P Ranahan, J Stokes, J Galvin, P Browne, C Joyce-Power, S Buckley (1-0), G Collins (0-2, 2f), S Kelly (0-4, 1f), I Ryan (0-3, 2f).
Subs: J O’Donovan (1-0) for Stokes (39), J Mullane for Browne (53), B O’Brien for Joyce-Power (61), E Hogan for Buckley (67)
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)