Mayo will still go into the quarter-finals of the Christy Ring Cup in a few weeks despite their narrow defeat at the hands of Meath on Saturday afternoon in a blustery MacHale Park. A late free from Meath captain Stephen Clynch at the end of normal time was the difference between the two sides on the day. The Royals number six showed nerves of steel to stroke the ball right over the black spot under pressure to send Meath straight into the semi-finals of the competition. Mayo did have a chance right at the death, but Sean Regan was unable to direct his sideline cut from 21 meters out under the stand over the bar.
It had looked like it was all over for Mayo 16 minutes into the second half when former Meath footballer Caoimhin King put Meath into a 0-15 to 0-11 lead with a fine score from play as Meath put their wind advantage in the second half to good use early on in the half which began with Mayo leading by 0-10 to 0-9. Johnny Meyler leveled the contest up right from the throw-in, in the second half and Kenny Feeney pushed Mayo back into the lead from a free not long after, but for the next 14 minutes it was all Meath with Mayo struggling to get out of their half for long periods and when they did get chances they didn't take them. With Feeney missing two chances from frees he would have expected to nail himself. Derek Doran and three more Clynch placed balls along with King's point put Meath into the biggest lead of the day, before Mayo mounted a comeback. Feeney re-found his composure from the placed balls and rattled over four frees from the 18th to 30th minute of the second half, but Meath dug deep and Clynch had the nerve to win the game at the end.
The bare minimum separated the sides at the break with Christy Phillips men going in leading by 0-10 to 0-9 at the turn around. There was one change to the starting 15 that Philips named on the program with Keith Higgins starting his first game for the hurlers this year in the half-forward line, with Stephen Hoban dropping out of the side. The visitors went into an early 0-2 to 0-0 lead with former Meath footballer Caoimhin King opening the scoring from play inside the first minute. That score was quickly added to by Meath captain Stephen Clynch who converted the first of four placed balls he converted over the opening 35 minutes. Mayo steadied their nerves with a Kenny Feeney free on five minutes and then went about dominating most of the game for the next half-an-hour or so. Fergal Boland leveled up the contest with a great strike from out on the sideline on the stand side of the field, before Willie McGrath pushed the Royal's back in front six minutes in. Feeney left the sides all square again nine minutes in and a minute later with his first real involvement in the contest Higgins pushed Mayo into the lead for the first time with a good score from play. Clynch from another free brought parity back to the contest, before another Feeney free and a over the shoulder effort from Sean Regan put Mayo into a 0-6 to 0-4 lead after 16 minutes.
Clynch cut the gap back to one point with another free from distance, before Feeney responded in kind for Mayo. The home team kept the gap at two points until right before the median whistle with Feeney adding on two more scores, one a fine effort from play and Boland chipping in with his second before Declan Gallagher got his name on the scoresheet with a monster of a free from inside his own half. Meath kept chipping away on the scoreboard with Clynch, Willie McGrath, Sean Heavy and Shane Whitty adding on scores to send Mayo in leading by 0-10 to 0-9 at the break.
Mayo: K Feeney (0-10, 9f ), K Higgins (0-1 ),F Boland (0-2 ) , S Regan (0-1 ) D Gallagher (0-1, 1f )
Meath: S Clynch (0-8, 5f, 2 65 ), W McGrath (0-2 ), C King (0-2 ), J Meyler (0-1 ), S Whitty (0-1 ), S Heavy (0-1 ), D Doran (0-1 )
Mayo: Donal Byrne; Adrian Brennan, Aidan Connolly, David Kenny; Declan Gallagher, Keith Higgins, Paddy Barrett; Ciaran Charlton, Brian Higgins; Garry Nolan, Derek McDonnell, Fergal Boland; Kenny Feeney, Sean Regan, Brian Hunt. Subs: Joseph Kennedy for B Higgins (37 ), Eoin Collins for D McDonnell (45 ), Stephen Hoban for B Hunt (63 ), Darren McTigue for F Bolan (67 )
Meath:Charlie Bird; Cormac O'Reilly, Neil McLoughlin, David Donoghue; Peter Farrell, Stephen Clynch, Shane Whitty; Sean Heavey, Darren Reilly; Caoimhin King, James Toher, Johnny Meyler; Willie McGrath, Damien Healy, Stephen Morris. Subs: Derek Doran for D Reilly (26 ), Seanie Doyle for D Healy (53 ), Jack Regan for J Meyler (69 )
Referee: John O'Brien (Tipperary )