When James Quinn raised Mayo's tenth white flag of the day in Croke Park on Sunday, he put Tony Duffy's side into a commanding 1-10 to 0-6 lead and a day out in September seemed to be almost a dead cert. But for almost the next half an hour, Mayo went scoreless until Stephen Coen drilled the ball over the bar with the last kick of the game as he looked for a three pointer that would have pulled Mayo back level.
There were controversial decisions, none more so than in the lead up to Meath's first goal when Meath were given a controversial ball on the sideline. The next play ended up with Mayo captain Adam Gallagher being harshly adjudged to have foot blocked Cillian O'Sullivan's effort. Meath's Fiachra Ward stepped up and calmly dispatched the ball to the back of the net despite the best efforts of Conor O'Malley in the Mayo goal. While the lead up to the goal was harsh on Mayo, the fact that Meath found the back of the net wasn't. From as early as ten seconds into the game, the Royal's had a chance to raise the green flag and throughout the first 30 minutes, they had four very good goal chances that they failed to take. Their failure to take these chances was down to a combination of good fortune for Mayo with one effort cashing back off the bar and O'Malley making a fine save along with Patrick Durcan making a heroic block for another. While Meath were profligate with their superior possession and territory and in the opening half. Mayo were almost the perfect model of efficiency, taking their chances when they were present with them, going into a 1-6 to 0-1 lead after 22 minutes of the game. Eoghan Lavin got things going with a pointed free from the Cusack Stand side of the field in the second minute, this was followed by a Séan Regan effort then Stephen Coen made it 0-3 to 0-0 on the ten minute mark. Shane Hennelly got his first score of the day when he was the beneficiary of some great hassling by James Quinn, who chased in a ball that dropped into Meath goalkeeper Robert Burlingham's hand's. The little Ballinrobe corner forward forced the turn-over and played in Hennelly who pointed from close range. Meath did get their first score of the game 17 minutes in when Ward pointed from a free. Mayo struck back though two minutes later when they did what Meath had failed to do on numerous occasions before that and put the ball in the back of the net. Adam Gallagher played in Quinn who had was breaking for goal, Quinn looked to be taking aim himself for goal, but he got challenged just before he connected with the ball. His miss-hit shot, flew into the hands of Diarmuid O'Connor who threw his man a dummy with a little side-step before driving the ball into the net from close range despite the best efforts of Robert Burlingham in the Meath goal. Almost immediately Patrick Durcan followed this up with a point of his own from wing back and two minutes later Eoghan Lavin kicked a 45' to leave Mayo leading by 1-6 to 0-1 after 22 minutes.
However in the next four minutes Meath rolled off four points on the bounce to make sure that Mayo knew they were still in the game. Adam Gallagher kicked Mayo seventh point a minute before the break with Cillian O'Sullivan replying for Meath in injury time to leave the scoreboard reading Mayo 1-7 Meath 0-6 at the turn around.
Mayo couldn't have asked for a better start to the second half, the reeled off the first three points of the half to put themselves seven points to the good and looking forward to a place in the All Ireland final. Gallagher kicked the first from a free, then he landed another from play before Quinn kicked one to leave Tony Duffy's side up by 1-10 to 0-6. But from then on things started to go badly for Mayo. It started before Quinn's score when a clash of heads under the Hogan Stand saw both Séan Regan and Eoghan Lavin having to be replaced, Regan did come back in later on in the game but it took a while for Mayo to adjust to the loss of the two forwards.
Mayo seemed to freeze and coughed up possession easily to the Meath men who remained composed and kept chipping away at the Mayo lead and with six minutes left when O'Malley pushed O'Sullivan's effort over the bar the gap was only O'Connor's first half goal. Two minutes later the game flipped firmly in the beaten Leinster finalists favour with the penalty decision, which brought them level and gave them the momentum. They kicked on and on 60 minutes sub Patrick Kennelly drove the ball to the net for their second goal as the Mayo defence tried valiantly to hold them out. Coen did kick the last score of the game as Mayo went in search of the goal that would have sent the contest into extra time, but his effort went over the bar and the final whistle was blown just after the resulting kick-out.
Mayo scorers: Diarmuid O’Connor (1-0 ), Adam Gallagher (0-3 ), Stephen Coen (0-2 ), Eoghan Lavin (0-2 ), Sean Regan (0-1 ), Shane Hennelly (0-1 ), Patrick Durcan (0-1 ), James Quinn (0-1 )
Meath scorers: Fiachra Ward (1-3 ), Patrick Kennelly (1-0 ), Jason Daly (0-2 ), Pauric Harnan (0-1 ), James McEntee (0-1 ), Cillian O’Sullivan (0-2 ) Ruairi O Coileain (0-1 )
Mayo: C O’Malley; J Geraghty, S Moran, M Plunkett; P Durcan, C Burke, K Lynch; B Mullen, A Gallagher; E Lavin, S Coen, D O’Connor; James Quinn, Sean Regan, Shane Hennelly. Subs: C Byrne for S Regan; D Duffy for E Lavin, D McHale for D O'Connor, S Regan for J Quinn.
Meath: R Burlingham; D Smyth, B Power, S Gallagher; C Carton, S McEntee, S Lavin; P Harnan, A Flanagan; C O'Sullivan, J Daly, J McEntee; B Dardis, S Coogan, F Ward. Subs: R Ó'Coileáin for C Carton, P Kennelly for B Dardis, C Ó'Griofa for S Coogan.