Leinster SFC: Meath defeat Offaly
Leinster Senior Football Championship First Round
MEATH 1-13 OFFALY 0-14
By Paul Keane at Pairc Tailteann, Navan
Favourites Meath lived on their wits in Navan, coming from four points down with 15 minutes to go to seal a battling victory and a Leinster SFC quarter-final place.
Andy McEntee's Royal County charges were strong favourites to progress beforehand after lighting up the Allianz league with their promotion charge to Division 1.
But they were forced to dig deep in front of their own supporters in Navan and ultimately conjured 1-4 without reply in the closing minutes to see off John Maughan's side.
Bryan McMahon's 63rd minute goal was crucial for Meath, putting them into a lead that they held onto to secure a May 25 clash with Carlow.
McMahon scored 1-2 in total while Mickey Newman helped himself to four points in perfect conditions at Pairc Tailteann.
It was tough on Maughan's Offaly who hit seven points in a row at the beginning of the second-half to put themselves in a strong position but they couldn't finish off the 2010 champions.
Offaly were bidding for a first away win in the Leinster championship since beating Westmeath in Mullingar in 1997 and hinted initially that they might have some success in Navan.
With Niall McNamee back involved in Championship football for the first time since 2017, and converting two early frees, they led 0-4 to 0-2 after 20 minutes.
McNamee had an exciting duel with Meath full-back Conor McGill while Shane Gallagher tracked Bernard Allen, Offaly's leading scorer in the league.
Peter Cunningham impressed at midfield for Offaly and his second point of the game tied things up at 0-5 apiece.
McNamee put Offaly ahead briefly with another converted free before Meath reeled off four points in a row to open up a three-point lead.
Captain Bryan Menton, Thomas O'Reilly, Cillian O'Sullivan and Newman were all on the mark as the hosts led 0-9 to 0-6 at half-time.
But it was far from a classic contest with Meath, the strong favourites, looking tentative and nervy as Offaly sought to capitalise on their underdogs tag.
Offaly 'keeper Paddy Dunican was one of three Faithful debutants and blasted two frees wide in the first-half.
The Division 3 outfit, who narrowly avoided relegation, hit seven first-half wides and 14 in total.
Their radar was fully tuned in after the restart as they struck those seven points in a row to the horror of Meath supporters.
McNamee was on song in this period and scored three of those seven points while debutant Shane Horan, a Leinster club finalist with Kilmacud Crokes last December, also scored one.
With 49 minutes on the clock, Offaly now led by 0-13 to 0-9 and were suddenly in a strong position to plunder a famous win.
Ex-Meath captain Graham Reilly came off the bench and won a free that Newman converted.
It was an important score that halted Offaly's momentum and ultimately began a comeback that elevated a relieved Meath to victory.
Newman's fourth point arrived in the 57th minute before a McMahon score and then came the McMahon goal that lifted Meath from a point down to two ahead.
It was sub James Conlon who dropped his score attempt short but McMahon broke the ball before bundling it in from close range.
Scorers for Meath: Bryan McMahon 1-2, Michael Newman 0-4 (3fs), Cillian O'Sullivan 0-2, Bryan Menton 0-2, Ben Brennan 0-1, Thomas O'Reilly 0-1, James Conlon 0-1.
Scorers for Offaly: Niall McNamee 0-6 (4fs), Peter Cunningham 0-2, Eoin Carroll 0-2, Bernard Allen 0-2 (1F), Shane Horan 0-1, Niall Darby 0-1.
MEATH: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; James McEntee, Donal Keogan, Gavin McCoy; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Cillian O'Sullivan, Bryan McMahon, Ben Brennan; Barry Dardis, Michael Newman, Thomas O'Reilly.
Subs: Adam Flanagan for S McEntee (ht), James Conlon for Dardis (42), Graham Reilly for O'Reilly (50), Sean Tobin for Brennan (52), Eoin Lynch for J McEntee (54), Padraic Harnan for Newman (70+5).
OFFALY: Paddy Dunican; Declan Hogan, Eoin Rigney, David Dempsey; Cian Donohoe, Johnny Moloney, Niall Darby; Eoin Carroll, Peter Cunningham; Shane Horan, Anton Sullivan, Cathal Mangan; Bernard Allen, Niall McNamee, Ruairi McNamee.
Subs: Shane Tierney for Sullivan (55), Joseph O'Connor for Horan (59), Paul McConway for Carroll (65), Mark Abbott for R McNamee (66), Conor Carroll for Cunningham (70+2).
REFEREE: Martin McNally (Monaghan).