Colm O’Neill mightn’t necessarily agree but there’s often more to a masterpiece than broad brush strokes of genius.
O’Neill certainly provided plenty of those, scoring 1-6 in Navan, and in the process securing a result that has returned Cork to the promotion picture with two games to go.
But in a well thought out performance that, at times, amounted to painting by numbers, it was Ian Maguire who quietly went about joining all of the dots for Cork, showing industry and endeavour.
The St Finbarrs man is captain for the league, in the absence of Paul Kerrigan, and gave a performance in Navan that did justice to the armband.
One moment in particular stood out when Meath, chasing the game with 10 minutes to go, threaded a ball straight down through the centre of Cork’s defence.
It looked like it would beat the last defender and open up a goalscoring opportunity but Maguire, at full stretch, swept in to flick the ball away, keeping their four-point lead intact.
But the greatest plaudits must go O’Neill’s way. Three cruciate injuries later, he’s still one of the most creative and stylish forwards in the game and showed his full skill set over the 80 or so minutes.
His scoring haul comprised a goal, two converted frees, two scores kicked from the boot and two scores from the fist.
It was also his shot that was blocked for John O’Rourke to steal in for Cork’s opening goal after 12 minutes, offering the visitors a vital cushion for the rest of the game.
The Ballyclough man won two second-half frees too which were converted by Mark Collins.
Ronan McCarthy was beaming on the sideline because after losing to Cavan at home, he tossed a dice and rolled a six.
Many of his ploys paid off, from using Sean White in a deeper position to instructing his players to get up around
O’Neill and better support his artistry, something McCarthy felt was lacking in the Cavan game: “We would have felt that in the Cavan match he (O’Neill) was extremely poor,” said McCarthy.
There was also the opportunity to bring on Donncha O’Connor for his first taste of competitive fare this year, lending another option.
The pre-match narrative was that whoever lost this one was going to be staring into a relegation battle with two games to go.
That thought clearly energised Cork most because they bossed the game, doing to Meath what Tipperary and Cavan had in previous games.
Cork led from the fifth minute when Collins put them 0-2 to 0-1 ahead until full-time. By that stage, Collins had picked up a black card but it occurred deep into injury-time and didn’t take away from a stellar display.
O’Rourke spun away from Seamus Lavin for a neat point early on too, another little indicator of what was to come troubled Meath’s way for the remainder of the afternoon.
O’Rourke then grabbed his minute goal when he was first onto a blocked shot by O’Neill, apparently getting his palm to the ball in a bunched area and directing it beyond David Gallagher.
Meath had some bright spells and got the margin back to a point after 21 minutes but Cork kicked on again and deservedly led 1-9 to 0-7 at half-time.
Cillian O’Sullivan is Meath’s best forward these days and did his best to inspire in the second-half. He kicked four points and dashed at Cork’s defence whenever he could.
Brian Power was dismissed after an injury-time melee while Brian Conlon was booked, a flashpoint that also led to Collins’ departure.
O’Neill fired in Cork’s second goal in the 69th minute after a Gallagher kick-out was intercepted.
Scorers for Cork:
C. O’Neill (1-6, 2 frees); M. Collins (0-7, 4 frees); J. O’Rourke (1-1); S. White and M. Taylor (0-1 each).
Scorers for Meath:
C. O’Sullivan (2 frees) and D. Lenhihan (0-4f) (0-4 each); S. Lavin (1-0); G. Reilly (0-3); T. O’Reilly (0-2) B. Brennan (0-1f) and J. McEntee (0-1 each).
M. White; K. Flahive, J. O’Sullivan, K. Crowley; T. Clancy, B. O’Driscoll, M. Taylor; I. Maguire (C), C. O’Hanlon; K. O’Driscoll, S. White, R. Deane; M. Collins, C. O’Neill, J. O’Rourke.
M. McSweeney for Deane, C. Dorman for B O’Driscoll (39); M. Hurley for S. White (62); C. Kiely for Crowley (66, black card); D. O’Connor for O’Neill (70), P. Kelleher for K. O’Driscoll (70). Collins black card 76, not replaced.
D. Gallagher; S. Lavin, C. McGill, D. Keogan; M. Burke, B. Power, S. McEntee; B. Menton (C), B. Conlon; G. Reilly, B. Brennan, J. McEntee; C. O’Sullivan, T. O’Reilly, D. Lenihan.
H. Rooney for Burke (31); E. Wallace for Brennan (54); S. Tobin for O’Reilly (62); P. McKeever for Lenhihan (65); B. McMahon for S McEntee (69).
S. Hurson (Tyrone).
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