Meath 1-17 Sligo 2-12
Old-fashioned Meath football comebacks are not an endangered species on the evidence of the remarkable turnaround in the NFL Division 3 clash with Sligo at Navan’s Pairc Tailteann on Saturday evening.
Royals’ manager Mick O’Dowd’s ears must have been red as he headed to the dressing-rooms for the interval break, his side trailing by seven points, having been in arrears by nine a few minutes earlier.
The visitors were dominant and slack defensive play gifted them two goals in the opening 12 minutes. However, an injury to star man Mark Breheny just after the half-hour mark had an unsettling effect on Kevin Walsh’s outfit.
Shane McManus fired the first goal on six minutes, taking a pass from Pat Hughes to leave the board reading 1-2 to 0-1.
The three goals were netted in a six-minute spell and although Stephen Bray reduced the deficit to the minimum after a fine run and pass by Davy Dalton, there was a prompt response.
Meath were guilty of dreadful defending as Adrian Marren was left unmarked in front of Paddy O’Rourke’s goal to collect a long delivery and comfortably restore the four-point lead.
O’Dowd was not slow to ring the changes with Graham Reilly, Conor Gillespie and Paddy Gilsenan coming on to make notable impacts. The home side outscored their opponents by 12 points to three in the second period.
Michael Newman put over six points, five from frees, after the interval and other lesser known forwards, Eamonn Wallace and David Larkin, also showed promise.
After the home side got the deficit down to two points (1-11 to 2-10) at the start of the last quarter, Sligo tagged on a brace from Marren and appeared to have weathered the storm.
However, Meath kept up the pressure and after wing-back Ciaran Lenehan struck his third point from play, two Newman long-range frees, edged them ahead for the first time.
An added time score from late substitute Joe Sheridan capped the revival and now Meath have promotion in their own hands with games against Antrim and Fermanagh to come.
Scorers for Meath: M Newman 0-8, 6fs, S Bray 1-0, C Lenehan 0-3, E Wallace, P Gilsenan, D Larkin, B Meade, G Reilly, J Sheridan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Sligo: A Marren 1-5, 0-2 fs, S McManus 1-0, M Breheny 0-3, 1f, A McIntyre 0-2, K Cawley, P Hughes 0-1 each.
MEATH: P O’Rourke; D Keogan, B Menton, C Young; B Lenehan, E Harrington, D Dalton; K Reilly, B Meade; D Larkin, C Ward, P Byrne; E Wallace, S Bray, M Newman. Subs: G Reilly for Ward (31), C Gillespie for Harrington, P Gilsenan for Byrne (both h-t), B Farrell for Bray (46), J Sheridan for Wallace ((61).
SLIGO: P Greene; C Harrison, J Martyn, R Donovan; K Cawley, A McIntyre, B Curran; S Gilmartin, J Kilcullen; B Egan, F Quinn, S McManus; M Breheny, P Hughes, A Marren. Subs: J Clarke for Brehony (31), J Kelly for McManus (53), N Murphy for Quinn (66).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).
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