With nine minutes left to go, Mayo pulled themselves level with Meath in Semple Stadium and the game hung firmly in the balance as a brave Mayo led by the excellent Fergal Boland put themselves in with a shot of claiming the Richie McElligott Cup. But over the closing stretch of the game Meath found a second wind to power home to a deserved win, even if the scoreline was a bit flattering to them as Mayo left plenty of gaps at the back as they went chasing the game in the final few minutes.
It’s been a good year for hurling in the county with the Mayo seniors making their way back to the Christy Ring Cup and the performance of this batch of players showing there’s plenty to be hopeful for in the future, even if this adventure came to an unfruitful conclusion.
The contest couldn’t have started worse for Mayo with David Kenny’s attempted clearance one minute in hooked down and the ball was worked to Meath’s Stefan Kelly who fired it low past Martin Parsons in the Mayo goal. Mayo almost got in themselves for a goal three minutes later, but Zak O’Toole’s effort was brilliantly blocked by a Meath defender. Mayo did manage to get the scoreboard moving from the breakdown of that play with James Gallagher firing over from long range for their first point.
Meath responded straight away with man-of-the-match Gavin McGowan firing over two points on the bounce between the fifth and sixth minutes. Fergal Boland hit his first of the day with a well taken free from 60m out with eight minutes gone and O’Toole slid one over from a tight angle to cut the gap to two points with 18 minutes left in the half.
Boland and Kelly traded scores as the game settled down and Mayo started to get a foothold in the middle of the park and with 20 minutes gone both sides added a few more scores as the Royals led 1-5 to 0-5. Meath stretched that lead out to five by the 23rd minute thanks to scores from McGowan and Eamon O’Donnacha. But Mayo were about to have a purple patch of their own where they hit four with out reply before the break.
Boland fired over one after he picked up Mark Phillips’ clearance, Corey Scahill drove over a beaut after Boland found him in space and Darragh Gallagher added another from an acute angle not long after he was introduced to the fray. The final act of the half was a score from Castlebar’s Sam Forde to send Mayo in trailing on a score of 1-7 to 0-9 at the break.
Mayo pulled themselves level just after the restart from a Boland free from close range, but Meath came straight back at them with three points on the run two from McGowan and one from Luke Martyn. Two more Boland frees cut the gap back to just one. However they could never get the scores they needed to edge in front with Meath going three points clear again by the 15 minute mark.
John Waldron’s men dug deep once more and Boland was starting to run riot he drove over two more points from frees and was unlucky to see two other efforts from difficult angles and distances slip just wide of the posts. With nine minutes to go Jason Coyne under pressure hit a great score to level things up from the old stand side of the field. But that was as good as it got for Mayo as Meath found an extra gear down the home straight and reeled off eight points on the bounce to give them a deserved win despite Mayo’s best efforts.
Mayo: F Boland (0-9, 8f ), C Scahill (0-1 ) J Coyne (0-1 ), Z O’Toole (0-1 ), J Gallagher (0-1 ), S Forde (0-1 ).
Meath: G McGowan (0-6 ), S Kelly (1-3 ), J Regan (0-5, 5f ), R Moore (0-2 ), L Martyn (0-1 ), E O’Donnacha (0-1 ), D Reilly (0-1 ), S McGrath (0-1 )
Mayo: M Parsons; C Murphy, M Phillips, J Lyons; D Harrison, D Kenny, C Murray; S Mulroy, J Gallgher; F Boland, C Scahill, Z O’Toole; S Forde, J Judge, J Coyne. Subs: C Collins for J Coyne, S Nugent for J Lyons, M Lyons for S Forde, D Gallagher for J Judge
Meath: C Bird; C Dempsey, I Hughes, L Ferguson; S Coloe, R Ryan, D Reilly; S Quigley, S McGrath; J Regan, S Kelly, E O’Donnacha; G McGowan, R Ryan, L Martyn. Subs: K Ryan for E O’Donnacha, F McCabe for L Martyn, R Moore for R Ryan,
Ref: John Keane (Galway )