There were four games in Division II on Sunday, with wins for Meath and Donegal as Down v Monaghan and Louth v Armagh finished level.
Allianz Football League Division II Results: Down 1-11 Monaghan 0-14, Laois 1-9 Donegal 2-19, Louth 0-16 Armagh 1-13, Meath 3-18 Galway 4-11
Meath 3-18 Galway 4-11
Meath came out on top in the end after a remarkable game of football against Galway in Navan, which saw the Tribesmen hit four goals and still end up on the losing side.
Alan Mulholland's Galway side led by 2-6 to 2-4 at the break, after Michael Martin's goal for them just shy of the interval put them in front. Meath had hit the first goal of the game after just three minutes through Micky Newman, but it was followed by a Seán Armstrong strike for Galway.
Meath edged into a 2-3 to 1-3 lead after 22 minutes thanks to Stephen Bray's well-worked goal, but Martin's strike set up Galway nicely for the second half. A third Galway goal came shortly after the restart through substitute Tom Flynn, making it 3-7 to 2-5, but Meath responded brilliantly to the score, kicking the next eight points without reply to move clear.
That left the Royals 2-13 to 3-7 ahead entering the final quarter, and Cillian O'Sullivan's goal for Meath with 12 minutes to go more or less guaranteed victory for Mick O'Dowd's side. Remarkably, Galway found the net again before the end through Gary Sice, and his goal made it 3-17 to 4-10 in the closing stages, but Meath had just too much on the scoreboard for Galway to overhaul them by that stage, and they opened up their campaign in the second tier with a valuable win.
Down 1-11 Monaghan 0-14
Down rescued a point against Monaghan in their Allianz Football League Division II clash at Páirc Esler in Newry on Sunday, overturning a six-point half-time deficit as they produced an excellent second half of football.
Monaghan led 0-10 to 0-4 at half-time after a dominant first half display. Points from Thomas Kerr (2), Jack McCarron (3) and Paul Finlay had Monaghan 0-6 to 0-2 ahead at the end of the first quarter, and two more from the very impressive McCarron before the interval had Malachy O'Rourke's side six clear at the break.
McCarron's sixth point of the day put Monaghan seven clear early in the second half but then came the Down revival. Conor McGinn's goal on 41 minutes made it 0-12 to 1-5, and although Conor McManus restored a five-point lead a few minutes later for Monaghan, Down kicked the next three points, through Conor Garvey, Eoin McCartan and Donal O'Hare to get within two points heading into the final 15 minutes.
A McManus free put Monaghan three ahead again, but Down dug deep in the final five minutes to hit three without reply. Jerome Johnston and Donal O'Hare cut the gap to just one, and then O'Hare nervelessly slotted over a free in injury-time to rescue a draw for Down, which simply hadn't looked likely at half-time.
Laois 1-9 Donegal 2-19
Donegal began life in Division II of the Allianz Football League with a hugely encouraging 13-point win over Laois at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Sunday afternoon. Having been relegated to the second tier last year, it was the perfect way for the 2012 All-Ireland champions to demonstrate that they mean business after a disastrous 2013 campaign.
After an even enough first half, Jim McGuinness’s men led by 1-6 to 0-5 thanks to an Odhran MacNiallais goal in the 13th minute. However, a superb goal from Colm McFadden just two minutes after the resumption of play set the tone for a dominant second half display. McFadden struck a wonderful shot with the outside of his left foot, leaving Laois goalkeeper Graham Brody with little chance.
A Michael Murphy free extended Donegal’s lead but Laois were in real trouble when Denis Booth was issued with a straight red card for a high tackle on Mark McHugh. Remarkably, Donegal then hit a further seven points in a row to move 2-14 to 0-5 up, before Ross Munnelly responded with a free in the 61st minute, his side’s first since the 23rd minute of the first half.
Laois restored some pride with a John O’Loughlin goal in the closing stages, but it was far too little and far too late for the hosts. For their manager, Tomás Ó Flatharta, it was a very disappointing first game in charge, and next Sunday’s clash with Louth in Drogheda can’t come soon enough after a chastening opener.
Louth 0-16 Armagh 1-13
After a very disappointing McKenna Cup campaign, Armagh were staring down the barrel of an embarrassing defeat to Louth in their Allianz League Division II opener at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda, but a stunning late comeback salvaged plenty of pride and a valuable league point for Paul Grimley’s side.
Trailing by eight points, 0-16 to 0-8, with 55 minutes on the clock having been nine in arrears at one stage, the Orchard County hit the comeback trail with gusto. A couple of timely points reduced the gap to six and then Stefan Forker found the back of the net with four minutes remaining to suggest that something special could be in the offing.
When Tony Kernan and Stefan Campbell added further scorers for Armagh, there was just a point in it with two minutes of added time already played. However, Armagh were then awarded a crucial free and the nerveless Tony Kernan stepped up to earn his side a deserved share of the spoils.
Louth led by 0-10 to 0-4 at half-time, with Declan Byrne and Colm Judge both in excellent scoring form. Brian Donnelly and Judge extended that lead to eight just four minutes into the second half and were nine ahead on the three-quarter hour mark. Despite being in complete control for most of the game, Aidan O’Rourke’s charges faltered badly in the closing stages and Armagh completed the most unlikely of comebacks.