Allianz FL D2: Meath pip Clare
Allianz Football League
Meath 0-10 Clare 0-9
By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park
Typifying their contrasting current form, it was Meath that snatched victory at the death to consolidate their Division 2 status over Clare in front of 1,375 in Cusack Park Ennis.
Following a rousing first victory of the campaign over Cork last time out, Meath made it back to back wins when substitute James Conlon popped up with a 73rd minute winner to floor their hosts who have now slumped to three successive reverses.
A draw seemed inevitable for long stages of this evenly-matched tie that saw the sides level on six occasions and had never more than a kick of the ball between them at any stage.
Both also had their periods of dominance, with the visitors setting a blistering early pace when Jordan Morris (2) and Shane Walsh converted the first three points of the game, all from frees, by the turn of the opening quarter. Clare were unlucky to see an Emmet McMahon shot denied by a brilliant Harry Hogan save but honed their radar superbly to outscore the Leinster side by 0-5 to 0-2 for the remainder of the half and ensure a half-time stalemate.
Eoin Cleary got the Banner off the mark in the 21st minute before a brace of Keelan Sexton frees regained full parity seven minutes later. Twice, Meath attempted to edge matters by the break but Eoin Cleary would be equal to Shane Walsh and Bryan Menton singles at 0-5 to 0-5.
Despite now facing into the conditions, Clare maintained that upward curve on the restart with Keelan Sexton firing over to give his side the lead for the first time in the 41st minute, only to be pegged back three minutes later by Walsh.
A black card for Gavin McGowan boosted the Banner to nudge in front with successive scores for Sexton and Emmet McMahon at 0-8 to 0-6. However, Meath dug deep and would be aided greatly from the bench as replacements Joey Wallace, Bryan McMahon and finally James Conlon all got in on the scoring action before the finish.
Clare substitute Conor Jordan also chipped in with a vital point to inch the home side 0-9 to 0-8 ahead in the 63rd minute. However, Ronan Jones would be instrumental in turning the tide decisively in Meath’s favour as first he set up McMahon for the leveller before making a pivotal interception deep in additional time to tee up Conlon for a dramatic winner.
Indeed, it was Andy McEntee’s side's fifth consecutive competitive victory over Clare in as many seasons as Meath cemented their safety while even in defeat, the Banner are most likely to avoid any relegation danger too but crucially still have their fate in their own hands when traveling to Down next Sunday.
Scorers for Meath: Shane Walsh 0-3 (2f), Jordan Morris 0-2 (2f), Bryan Menton 0-1, Joey Wallace 0-1, Cillian O’Sullivan 0-1, Bryan McMahon 0-1, James Conlon 0-1
Scorers for Clare: Keelan Sexton 0-4 (3f), Eoin Cleary 0-3, Emmet McMahon 0-1, Conor Jordan 0-1
Meath: Harry Hogan; Robin Clarke, Conor McGill, Jordan Muldoon; Donal Keogan, Eoin Harkin, Gavin McGowan; Bryan Menton, Ronan Jones; Jason Scully, Thomas O’Reilly, Mathew Costello; Jordan Morris, Shane Walsh, Cillian O’Sullivan. Subs: Joey Wallace for Walsh (49), Bryan McMahon for O’Reilly (59), Jack O’Connor for Scully (63), James Conlon for Morris (68)
Clare: Stephen Ryan; Manus Doherty, Cillian Brennan, Cillian Rouine; Jamie Malone, Cian O’Dea, Eoghan Collins; Ciaran Russell, Darren O’Neill; Emmet McMahon, Eoin Cleary, Pearse Lillis; Aaron Griffin, Keelan Sexton, David Tubridy. Subs: Daniel Walsh for Collins (HT), Conor Jordan (0-01) for Doherty (39), Gavin Cooney for Brennan (49), Joe McGann for Griffin (63)