Allianz FL D2: Meath claim important win
Allianz Football League Division Two
MEATH 2-13 ARMAGH 0-13
By Aonghus Ó Maicín at Páirc Tailteann
Only a late second wind for Meath deprived Armagh from securing what would surely have gone down as one of the comebacks of the year and left the Orchard men still seeking their first win of the league campaign.
The Ulster men had failed to ignite during the opening 35 minutes, but after re-emerging for the second half, trailing by nine points, they had home fans sitting on the edge of their seats until Ethan Devine got a final touch on Michael Newman's effort from short-range to score his side's second goal..
Andy McEntee's team bolted from the starting gates, scoring four points in succession before Armagh eventually got on the scoreboard through Stephen Sheridan. Unfortunately for the visitors, it would be nearly 15 minutes before they raised another white flag, with Meath going on a scoring rampage that almost left the tie beyond Armagh's reach at half-time.
The home side took advantage of the strong breeze at their backs in the first half, and even though Armagh deployed a heavily defensive set-up at times, drawing 15 men back inside their own 65-metre line, the Royals exuded confidence and patience and found avenues to penetrate through.
A goal was always on the cards for Meath and when Thomas O'Reilly was brought down within the square after some clinical link-up play with teammates, Michael Newman made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Meanwhile, Armagh were struggling to calibrate their compasses at the other end; and while their shot selection wasn't necessarily poor their execution was well below par.
Playing into a strong breeze forced the Ulster men to play out from the back, but Meath were waiting to ambush lone Armagh defenders on countless occasions, often pushing their opponents out over the side-line when they opted to play the ball wide.
All the while, Newman continued to accumulate scores from placed balls while Cillian O'Sullivan and Darragh Campion were among the players to judge the breeze perfectly, in contrast to their opponents, when getting on the score sheet.
Armagh - trailing by nine points at the break, 1-9 to 0-3 - obviously needed a bright start to the second half if they were to sustain hope of getting their first win of the league on the board, as unlikely as it appeared at the time.
And after the break, Kieran McGeeney's side were a change outfit, taking the game to their hosts and reducing the deficit to a goal quite quickly. Rory Grugan and and Rian O'Neill led the way for Armagh while Meath, much like Armagh in the first half, were much too passive in possession.
But just as the visitors had a victory, or at least a draw in sight, Meath pushed on with Newman playing a leading role once again.
Scorers for Meath: Michael Newman 1-5 (1-0pen, 5fs), Ethan Devine 1-0, Thomas O'Reilly and Darragh Campion 0-2 each, Ben Brennan (f), James McEntee, Shane McEntee and Cillian O'Sullivan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Armagh: Rian O'Neill 0-5 (5fs), Rory Grugan 0-4 (2fs), Stefan Campbell 0-2, Stephen Sheridan and Ryan McShane 0-1 each.
MEATH: Andrew Colgan; Conor McGill, Seamus Lavin, Ronan Ryan; James McEntee, Niall Kane, Donal Keogan; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Cillian O'Sullivan, Darragh Campion, Ben Brennan; Bryan McMahon, Michael Newman, Thomas O'Reilly.
Subs: Eoin Lynch for Kane (53), Graham Reilly for Brennan (53), Ethan Devine for McMahon (64), Michael Burke for O'Sullivan (68), Gavin McCoy for Ryan (70),
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; Connaire Mackin, Aaron McKay, Ryan Kennedy; Aidan Forker, James Morgan, Greg McCabe; Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley; Jemar Hall, Ryan McShane, Mark Shields; Rian O'Neill, Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan.
Subs: Joe McElroy for Campbell (61), Jarly Óg Burns for Hall (64), Paul Hughes for Kennedy (68), Aidan Nugent for McShane (68).
REFEREE: Rory Hickey (Clare).