Meath 0-10 UCD 1-9
Seamus McEnaney’s first competitive game in charge of Meath ended in a late defeat as UCD progressed in the O’Byrne Cup at a wet Pairc Tailteann.
This scrappy first round tie was decided by an injury-time goal from corner back Josh Hayes, who fisted the ball home after it had rebounded to him from Brendan Murphy’s initial save.
John Heslin wielded quite an influence on what was a poor spectacle for the larger than expected crowd. The Westmeath Under-21 starlet top-scored with 0-6 (0-4f), helping UCD set up a quarter-final clash with Carlow this Sunday.
They suffered an early setback in Navan when their captain, Kildare All-Star Peter Kelly, was stretchered off in the opening minute with a suspected ankle injury.
Meath, who lined out as selected, moved ahead in the sixth minute when Paddy Gilsenan collected a pass from Brian Sheridan and split the posts.
Centre-back Comac McGuinness scored off the outside of his right boot, and Niall Mooney pointed after a poor clearance by UCD goalkeeper Michael Savage. That left it 0-3 to 0-0 to the Royals after 17 minutes of play.
Meath corner back Cormac McGill escaped with just a yellow card, following a dangerous high tackle on UCD’s John O’Loughlin, before John Heslin opened the students’ account from the resulting free.
Michael Brazil from Offaly blazed over the crossbar when a goal looked on, and UCD’s resurgence continued with frees from Wexford’s Ciaran Lyng and Heslin - the latter’s from long range.
Cian Ward and Shane McAnerney were involved in the build-up to a Graham Reilly point, which brought Meath level, but a Heslin point from play nudged UCD 0-5 to 0-4 in front just before the interval.
Having dropped a couple of scoring chances into the arms of Savage in the first half, Meath were a lot more clinical on the resumption. Ward kicked a point from play and one from a free, and an excellent score from Reilly gave them a 0-7 to 0-5 lead.
Antrim’s Kevin McGourty and Heslin brought UCD back level, before the Royals reopened a two-point gap thanks to scores from Ward and defender Davy Dalton, who raided forward from his wing back berth.
Heslin replied with a terrific point to increase his influence on proceedings, and another free from the young midfielder had the sides level for the fifth time, with six minutes remaining.
McAnerney edged McEnaney’s men back in front, converting a chance created for him by McGuinness, but Cavan native Hayes had the final say for UCD despite a fine save just moments before by Murphy.
The result means Meath head into the O'Byrne Shield competition now and next up for McEnaney is a game against minnows Kilkenny this weekend.
B Murphy; C McGill, J Macken, D Dalton (0-1); D Morgan, C McGuinness (0-1), C Lenehan; M Ward, C Gillespie; S McAnerney (0-1), C Ward (0-3, 0-2f), N Mooney (0-1); G Reilly (0-2), B Sheridan, P Gilsenan (0-1).
Subs used: S Kenny for McGill (half-time), D Keoghan for Sheridan (53 mins), B Menton for Gillespie (66), B Meade for Mooney (69).
M Savage (Dublin); J Hayes (Cavan) (1-0), C Forde, (Galway), M Fitzsimons (Dublin); S Redmond (Carlow), P Kelly (Kildare), C Brady (Monaghan); K McGourty (Antrim) (0-1), J Heslin (Westmeath) (0-6, 0-4f); J O’Loughlin (Laois), C Lyng (Wexford) (0-1, 0-1f), J Cocoman (Kildare); C Kenny (Galway), D Larkin (Meath), M Brazil (Offaly) (0-1).
Subs used: T Warburton (Westmeath) for Kelly (2 mins), L Smith (Westmeath) for Cocoman (48), S Nerney (Laois) for Redmond (52), L Cawley (Mayo) for Larkin (57), R Mallon (Down) for Brazil (65).
Referee: Paul Kneel (Louth)