So 58 years of waiting will tick into 59 years before Mayo can have another go at shaking that awful monkey that hangs on their back off. Croke Park and her confines have seen many a Mayo dream shattered and on Sunday those dreams were well and truly shattered again. While progress was made in 2009, a first Connacht title claimed in three years and look of maybe making a cut at a decent run in the championship, the cold hard fact's of Sunday was that Mayo were well beaten by a Meath side who were hungrier and more effective when they got the chance.
While Mayo could rightly feel aggrieved that the were on the short end of two decisions that could have swung the game their way, firstly Alan Dillon's 29th minute effort for a point which dropped short and Paddy O'Rourke in the Meath goal looked to carry over the line, and Cian Ward's goal from the penalty spot in the second half came from a line ball that clearly should have gone to Mayo. That goal coming so soon after Aidan O'Shea had given Mayo some day light when he punched the ball into the back of the net from a great ball across the face of from Trevor Mortimer, knocked the wind from Mayo's sails, while giving Meath's main sail a pivotal gust when needed.
John O'Mahony can also count himself unlucky that Mayo finished the game with none of his first choice full forward line intact, with Barry Moran not making a quick enough recovery to make the field and O'Shea picking up and injury scoring the goal which forced him to leave the fray soon after and Aidan Kilcoyne who had kicked three points from play before also having to the leave the park with an arm injury.
But that's not to take away from Meath whose midfield duo of Nigel Crawford and Brian Meade won the key battle with David Heaney and Ronan McGarrity, while as soon as Meath found a bit of rhythm in the first half their full forward trio of David Bray, Brian Farrell and Cian Ward had the beating of the Mayo full back line at almost every chance they got. Mayo just couldn't find their rhythm after threatening to blow Meath away in the early stages of the game when they raced into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after 12 minutes, Kilcoyne, Alan Dillon with two frees and Andy Moran with a great score after charging 40 yards up field had Mayo hearts full of hope and expectation. But a good start is only worth it if you can drive it home and Mayo couldn't. Mayo held Meath out until the 16th minute when Cian Ward drifted over a 45, then David Bray landed his first score of the game as the Meath front six began a trait that continued for the rest of the game, winning the ball ahead of the Mayo defenders and causing problems. Aidan O'Shea who put in a good showing did kick Mayo's fifth point of the game on 18 minutes when he showed strength to win the ball in front of his man and then a neat side step before pointing.
But Meath had the game level only seconds later, Joe Sheridan got the ball out on the Cusack Stand side of the field and he he hit a ball that was either a badly miss hit shot or a great ball, but either way David Bray had found him self in space away from Keith Higgins, not for the first time in the game and the Navan O'Mahony's man calmly dispatched the ball past Kenneth O'Malley.
Trevor Mortimer put Mayo back in the lead after Aidan O'Shea intercepted a poor free out from the Meath defense, but Royal county were back in the game and not going to let it slip Joe Sheridan pointed after he was played in by Cian Ward on 27 minutes. That score was sandwiched between Dillon's effort that dropped short and an effort from Pat Harte which he pulled badly wide, but was a realistic penalty shout as he looked to have been pulled back as he tried to pull the trigger. Aidan Kilcoyne put mayo back into the lead four minutes before the break when a long ball in my Andy Moran was broken into his path by Pat Harte who had moved into the full forward line to replace the ineffective Tom Parsons. But points from Sheridan and Brian Farrell had Meath going in leading by 1-5 to 0-7 at the break.
Conor Mortimer got the nod at half time to try and kick start the Mayo attack when he replaced Parsons in the front three unit. But it was Meath who drew first blood through a Ward free after he was hauled to the ground by Keith Higgins close in. Mayo did hit back and daw the game level thanks to Kilcoyne's third point from play and a Trevor Mortimer effort after Keith Higgins put in a storming run up field. It was a ding don affair at this stage and Brian Farrell got in on the act when he held off Donal Vaughan with ease to collect a Cormac McGuinness free. Conor Mortimer got his name on the score sheet when he got in behind his man to collect a probing Alan Dillon ball and for a second he seemed to have a goal chance but his shot blazed over the bar.
Keith Higgins and Joe Sheridan exchanged points, before a Alan Dillon free put Mayo back into the lead on 14 minutes and two minutes later O'Shea's goal should have been the decisive score to set Mayo up for the final twenty minutes, but the decision of the linesman on the Hogan Stand side of the field to award Meath a line ball that was clearly Mayo's led to Joe Sheridan picking out David Bray who was fouled by Liam O'Malley who had replaced Vaughan at that stage, and Ward blasting the ball past Kenneth O'Malley from 14 yards. Two minutes later Bray had the game back level with fine score after some hard running by Joe Sheridan. Conor Mortimer put Mayo back into the lead for the final time 13 minutes before the end with a free. But from then on, it was Meath who looked the hungrier and went for the win and duly got it. Sheridan fisted a dropping ball over the bar, then wit six minutes to go a long ball was pumped towards the Mayo goal, Kenneth O'Malley opted to punch rather than catch and substitute Jamie Queeney gladly popped the ball over the bar. Then Nigel Crawford walked through the Mayo defense to point after an effort from Pat Harte dropped short of the required distance, Brian Farrell added on another and suddenly Meath were three points up with three minutes to go. That lead was stretched out to four thanks to Bray who cut in along the end line and fisted over the bar and before you could catch your breath it was a five point game, when Andy Moran stood waiting for a ball from Ger Cafferkey to drop into his hands while Queeney raced in from behind him to win the ball and pop it over the bar. Conor Mortimer did pop over two more scores for Mayo but at that stage it was too little too late as 58 became 59.
Mayo: K O'Malley; D Vaughan, G Cafferkey, K Higgins (0-1 ), P Gardiner, T Howley, A Moran (0-1 ); D Heaney, R McGarrity; P Harte, T Mortimer (0-2 ), A Dillon (0-4,4f ); A Kilcoyne (0-3 ), T Parsons, A O'Shea (1-1 ). Subs: C Mortimer (0-3, 1f ), M Ronaldson, BJ Padden, L O'Malley, T Parsons
Meath:P O'Rourke; C O'Connor, A Moyles, E Harrington; M Burke, C McGuinness, C King; N Crawford (0-1 ), B Meade; P Byrne, J Sheridan (0-4 ), S Kenny; D Bray (1-3 ), B Farrell (0-3 ), C Ward (0-3, 2f ) Subs: J Queeney (0-2 ) N McKeigue.
Ref: Joe McQuillian (Cavan )