In the post detailing team news for Saturday evening’s Tailteann Cup Round 2 encounter in Fraher Field, Dungarvan – from which there were three late changes – reference was made to the 1999 All Ireland JFC Final. Which Waterford won with literally the last kick of the ball.
While there was never any danger of a repeat showing tonight, there must be something in the sight of a Meath jersey that brings the best out of them. With Conor Murray and Darragh Corcoran lively in attack, when Jason Curry netted to give the visitors the lead at 1-02 to 0-04, it was the least they deserved.
Indeed, Meath were lucky their plight wasn’t worse. It would have been were it for a splendid double save early on by Sean Brennan. The Dunderry lad’s heroics seemed to belatedly rouse his colleagues into action.
Dynamic full forward line duo Mat Costello and Aaron Lynch may have accounted for all their first half scores but at least Ronan Jones and Conor Gray began to give Meath a foothold in midfield and Ronan Ryan and Padraic Harnan steadied the ship at the back. Meaning that the nucleus of this Meath team – the spinal chord thereof if you will – now has a familiar and settled look about it, which can only be a good thing going forward.
Beginning the second half with a lead of 0-09 to to 1-04, it didn’t take long to become obvious that Colm O’Rourke’s charges upped their game and when Costello – or Mattie Goal as I’ve taken to calling him – again demonstrated his alacrity for raising the green flag, it finally gave the Royals some breathing room.
Mat’s latest Major put the visitors clear by 1-10 to 1-05 and that allowed then to relax and express themselves a little more. Jordan Morris came into the game more, including netting our second goal from the penalty spot and, as has been customary of late, the bench was emptied.
That meant Summerhill’s Eoghan Frayne and John O’Regan of Skryne being the latest newcomers to be given their chance. To their credit, the home side never gave up and indeed the fact that they were able to plunder 1-14 for themselves is bound to have made Colm lift up the baseball cap and scratch his head.
There were a couple of interesting side notes to Saturday evening’s win. Firstly, it was great to see James McEntee make a deserved and overdue return to the green and gold. Sending over two fine points into the bargain.
Also, in bagging 1-2 when he was introduced, by my calculations, Donal Lenihan has now contributed 4-13 so far this season from minimal game time. Both men exemplify the strength in depth which will be absolutely crucial if, and hopefully when, Meath’s journey is to continue.
MEATH – S. Brennan; H. O’Higgins, R. Ryan, M. Flood; D. Keogan, P. Harnan, S. Coffey; R. Jones, C. Gray; C. Hickey, D. McGowan, K. Curtis; J. Morris (1-2, 1-0 P), M. Costello (1-5, 3F), A. Lynch (0-6, 3F).
SUBS – J. McEntee (0-2) for Curtis, C. O’Sullivan for Hickey, E. Frayne (0-1) for Jones, J. O’Regan for Keogan, D. Lenihan (1-2) for Lynch.
Referee – Sean Lonergan (Tipperary)
FOGRA: Deepest Sympathies are extended to the family and friends of the late Sean McCormack and all in Kilmainhamwood and the other clubs with which the former goalkeeper was associated. One of the heroes of our 1967 All Ireland victory, Sean is assured of his place in the annals of Meath GAA.