Meath boss Andy McEntee blasted what he termed poor refereeing and criticised what he alleged were a series of wrong calls in big games following the team’s relegation from Division 1.
The Royals led Galway by eight points approaching half-time but ultimately slipped to a two-point defeat, their fifth on the spin, and will return to Division 2.
Captain Shane Walsh, who hit 0-7 including the game’s last two points, Paul Conroy and goalscorer Ronan Steede all played huge roles in a win that lifts Galway clear at the top.
But McEntee criticised referee Niall Cullen, arguing that Galway’s cynical play in the lead up to half-time went unpunished and that it allowed the Tribesmen to gain a vital foothold in the game, reeling off four points without reply as they did before the break.
Earlier in the campaign, McEntee was fuming that not enough stoppage time was played in their one-point defeat to Mayo and, separately, that Conor McGill was black carded against Donegal.
“We got a response back regarding two games, one that there should have been more time played but we paid the penalty that day and another one that there shouldn’t have been a black card against Donegal but we conceded 2-2 when we had that man out on a black card,” said McEntee.
“These all are decisions that are impacting on games; they are having a material impact on the scoreline of games, they are not Mickey Mouse decisions. They are big decisions and they are consistently getting it wrong.”
As regards Fermanagh referee Cullen, McEntee claimed he ‘had too much of an influence on the game’ and that aided Galway’s revival.
“He doesn’t seem to know the rules, he gave a free against Ethan Devine for a one-handed hand-pass, which he is allowed to do if one hand is being held. The ref said it was a one-handed throw. It’s not just Meath games, it’s every game.”
McEntee claimed that Cullen didn’t do enough to punish what he alleged was Galway’s cynical play and rejected the suggestion that the visitors were simply using all their experience and know-how.
“They got away with it because the officials didn’t take the appropriate action,” said McEntee. “That is not a reflection on us. We are trying to take kick-outs, lads are trying to make a run and they get dragged to the ground, that is not a lack of cuteness on our behalf, that is a lack of officials doing what they are supposed to do.”
McEntee, who spoke to Cullen at half-time, claimed Galway’s cynical play ‘changed the pace of the game, it changed the scoreline dramatically enough’ though Galway manager Padraic Joyce rejected this.
“He can have his own opinion on it but my opinion is that the referee refereed the game fairly all day long,” said Joyce, who reckoned Meath were guilty of cynical play too. “I saw a couple of Meath lads trying to drag our Galway fellas down to the ground, trying to get them into trouble. These things happen, it’s 50-50 at the end of the day.”
After hammering Tyrone by 19 points the previous weekend, Galway planned to pick up where they’d left off but were shocked to find themselves 1-6 to 0-1 down, necessitating an epic comeback.
“It’s not hindsight but I said at the start of the campaign this would be our toughest game,” said Joyce.
It was made all the more difficult by the losses of Cillian McDaid (knee) and Damien Comer (hamstring) with fresh injuries.
Joyce’s response to falling eight points down was to replace Martin Farragher with Conroy and the veteran had a huge impact.
It was Conroy, following a turnover in Meath’s defence, that picked out Steede for Galway’s 40th minute goal and he added four points after that to help turn the screw and consign Meath to the drop.
Scorers for Galway: S Walsh (0-7, 6 frees); R Steede (1-1); P Conroy (0-4, 1 mark); M Daly, E Brannigan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Meath: E Devine (1-0); J Conlon, D Lenihan (2 frees), B McMahon (0-3 each); B Menton (0-2); O O’Brien (0-1).
GALWAY: C Gleeson; S Kelly, S Mulkerrin, J Heaney; L Silke, J Daly, G O’Donnell; R Steede, T Flynn; E Brannigan, C D’Arcy, M Daly; M Farragher, S Walsh, A Varley.
Subs: P Conroy for Farragher (27); G Bradshaw for O’Donnell (52); R Finnerty for Varley (55); D Silke for Daly (61); M Barrett for Steede (65).
MEATH: M Brennan; R Clarke, C McGill, D Toner; J McEntee, R Ryan, D Keogan; B Menton, B Conlon; E Devine, B McMahon, C O’Sullivan; J Conlon, O O’Brien, T O’Reilly.
Subs: S Walsh for O’Brien (48); D Lenihan for Devine (55); J O’Connor for J Conlon & P Harnan for B Conlon (55).
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).