Down 1-13 Meath 0-14: It was a long time coming, so Eamonn Burns was relieved to get Down over the winning line as they picked up a first Allianz League victory in almost two years.
They led from start to finish in Pairc Esler on Saturday night to draw a line under a sorry 14-match losing streak in league and championship stretching back to April 2015.
Joe Murphy’s second-minute goal was a bit fortunate, Paddy O’Rourke stranded on his line as a dropping ball was flicked past him, but having lost their last 10 Allianz League fixtures it was a slice of luck they probably needed to set them on their way.
“There was plenty of intensity which was not evident in the previous two games (against Fermanagh and Clare),” said Burns.
“When our back was to the wall we dug in.There was a lot of speculation last week about the number of people we have at training sessions but the top end is 35, and this week was no different. Their commitment can’t be questioned. We kept the pressure away from the players but after the first two defeats you’re obviously looking to make some headway in your third game, which we did.”
Stung by criticism since their big loss in Clare two weeks ago, Down played with an edge and aggression not seen in some time. They moved the ball quickly and led 1-8 to 0-6 at half time, with Meath not scoring from play for 29 minutes and relying on Donal Lenihan’s free-taking. The Royals were also furious when Barry O’Hagan’s second point, clearly wide, was given as a score. Caolan Mooney, Darragh O’Hanlon and Kevin McKernan were key figures and drove the team forward.
Having not won in so long, Down were rocking at the end. Fullback Gerard McGovern deflected Lenihan’s goal-bound shot over the bar in injury time to deny Meath an equalising goal. Considering they were playing a team who hadn’t won in so long, Meath should have exerted far more pressure on an anxious home side and that disappointed manager Andy McEntee. With just one win from three and Galway next up at home, McEntee accepted Meath are now entering a relegation battle.
“Of course we are, but so are Down, so are Derry, there’s a lot of teams in that situation. It’s a tough league.
“There are two ways of reacting and I hope we will react the right way.”
Scorers for Down:
D O’Hanlon 0-4 (3f), J Murphy 1-0, B O’Hagan 0-2, K McKernan 0-2, A Carr, C Maginn, R Johnston, C McGovern, J Johnston 0-1 each.
Scorers for Meath:
D Lenihan 0-8 (6f), G Reilly 0-2, J Toher 0-2 (1f), D Keogan, B McMahon 0-1 each.
M Reid; R McAleenan, G McGovern, D O’Hagan; D O’Hanlon, C McGovern, C Mooney; P Turley, A Carr; K McKernan, C Maginn, J Murphy; S Millar, B O’Hagan, R Johnston.
B McArdle for G McGovern (48), J Johnston for O’Hagan (49), M Poland for Mooney (65), P Devlin for R Johnston (69), N Donnelly for McKernan (BC, 70).
P O’Rourke; D Keogan, C McGill, R O Coileain; W Carry, B Power, S McEntee; B Menton, J Toher; A Forde, C O’Sullivan, C O’Brien; G Reilly, B Sheridan, D Lenihan Subs: B McMahon for O’Sullivan (HT), E Wallace for O’Brien (48), D Toner for McEntee (62).
Martin McNally (Monaghan)
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