Allianz FL D2 North: Meath stage dramatic comeback
Allianz Football League Division Two North
MEATH 0-16 WESTMEATH 0-15
By Paul Keane at Pairc Tailteann, Navan
Resurgent Meath ended their two-year wait for an Allianz League win with a barnstorming victory in Navan, coming from four points down to beat Westmeath in a thrilling finale.
The 2019 and 2020 Leinster finalists looked in trouble when they slipped 0-13 to 0-9 behind neighbours Westmeath with 14 minutes of normal time remaining.
Westmeath were inspired by John Heslin and Luke Loughlin who scored 0-10 between them but when the need was greatest it was Meath who dug deepest, scoring seven of the game's last nine points at Pairc Tailteann.
Fionn Reilly, a debutant, got that late flurry of scores underway and Eamon Wallace clipped what proved to be the winner for Meath in the 71st minute.
That score actually put Meath two points clear and Ronan Wallace reduced it to the minimum with a fisted point for Westmeath at the death as they chased a goal.
Meath had 12 different scorers in total with 0-5 of their tally coming from the bench as the team relegated from Division 1 last season displayed their depth.
It was also Shane McEntee's first game as captain, the son of manager Andy replacing last year's joint-captaincy combination of Donal Keogan and Bryan Menton.
Meath will return to action against Down in Armagh next weekend while Westmeath will be at home to Connacht champions Mayo.
The head to head between Heslin and experienced Meath full-back Conor McGill was one of the duels of a game that simmered at first before eventually coming to the boil.
Heslin signalled early on that he was fully tuned in by playing a role in three of Westmeath's first four points.
Two of those scores came from converted 45s that he helped to win and which were dispatched by Loughlin.
Former New York forward Loughlin caused similar trouble for the Meath hurlers at the same ground last November when he struck a crucial late goal in their Joe McDonagh Cup win.
Former captain Ger Egan was on the mark for Westmeath too who weren't exactly prolific from open play - only three of their first-half points came from play - but still possessed the lead at the interval, 0-8 to 0-7.
Jordan Morris, who scored 4-9 for Meath in his maiden Championship campaign in 2020, clipped a Meath point but was well tracked by Boidu Sayeh generally.
Eoin Harkin, from junior outfit Dunsany, scored a point on his full debut too while Cillian O'Sullivan was on the mark with a brace.
But it was far from vintage Meath who were in action for the first time since their heavy Leinster final defeat to Dublin at Croke Park last November.
Egan increased Westmeath's lead with a cracking point from distance after the restart and Heslin converted another free to leave the visitors 0-10 to 0-7 clear.
A terrific Heslin point from the right wing in the 46th minute this time left two in it as Westmeath placed themselves in pole position.
They retained that two-point lead at the second water break and looked to be primed to pull off a repeat of their memorable 2015 Championship win over the Royals.
But they couldn't kick on for the win they craved as Meath put themselves in a strong position for a top-two finish with that late scoring surge to seal a badly needed league win, their first since beating Fermanagh in March of 2019.
Scorers for Meath: Jordan Morris 0-3 (3fs), Cillian O'Sullivan 0-2 (1m), Bryan McMahon 0-2 (1f), Thomas O'Reilly 0-1 (f), Darragh Campion 0-1, Mathew Costello 0-1, Eoin Harkin 0-1, Bryan Menton 0-1, Fionn Reilly 0-1, James Conlon 0-1, Andy Colgan 0-1 (0-1f), Eamon Wallace 0-1.
Scorers for Westmeath: John Heslin 0-7 (5fs), Luke Loughlin 0-3 (2 45), Ger Egan 0-2, Ray Connellan 0-1, Ronan O'Toole 0-1, Ronan Wallace 0-1.
MEATH: Andy Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Ronan Ryan; Donal Keogan, Shane McEntee, Eoin Harkin; Bryan Menton, Padraic Harnan; Ethan Devine, Darragh Campion, Mathew Costello; Jordan Morris, Thomas O'Reilly, Cillian O'Sullivan.
Subs: Bryan McMahon for O'Reilly & James Conlon for Campion (h/t), Jason Scully for Costello and Fionn Reilly for Harkin (51), Eamon Wallace for Devine (58), Jack O'Connor for Morris (68), David Dillon for O'Sullivan (75).
WESTMEATH: Jason Daly; Jack Smith, Kevin Maguire, Boidu Sayeh; James Dolan, Ronan Wallace, Jamie Gonoud; Sam Duncan, Ray Connellan; David Lynch, Ronan O'Toole, Denis Corroon; Ger Egan, John Heslin, Luke Loughlin.
Subs: Kieran Martin for Lynch (54), Lorcan Dolan for Smith (63), Brandon Kelly for Egan (75).
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).