Allianz FL D1: Mayo edge out Meath
Allianz Football League Division One
MAYO 1-9 MEATH 2-5
By Paul Keane at Pairc Tailteann, Navan
Kevin McLoughlin emerged as Mayo's super sub with a late 1-2 at Pairc Tailteann to secure a vital Division 1 win for the Allianz Football League title holders.
With just a point on the board ahead of their trip east, and hosts Meath desperately seeking a win themselves after two defeats, it was the first basement battle of the campaign and Mayo finished strong to prevail.
In a game dominated by a strong diagonal wind, that favoured Mayo initially and Meath in the second-half, James Horan's visitors led by six points at half-time only to cough up that advantage and trail by one with normal time almost up.
McLoughlin then kicked a point from play to level it and booted a 68th minute goal after being fed by Ryan O'Donoghue that ultimately separated the teams in a one-point game.
It means Meath, in the top flight for their first season since 2006, still haven't beaten a Division 1 team since 2014, when they overcame Kildare in the Championship.
They lost to Tyrone by five points in Round 1 last month and by double that last Sunday when visitors Donegal fought back from a slow start to win comfortably.
It was Mayo that got the bright start this time in Navan though they were aided by the strong, diagonal wind that was blowing in their favour towards the town end.
Tommy Conroy opened the scoring after five minutes and Mayo put five points on the board in total, two of those coming from James Carr, before Meath finally grabbed one themselves through Bryan Menton in the 25th minute.
Meath found it difficult to cope with the cross wind against them and Menton was among those who kicked wides in the opening half. Shane Walsh, starting his first league game of the season following injury, claimed an advanced mark but booted his point attempt wide too.
Menton's point ended up being Meath's only score of the half with Mayo dominating possession and implementing a strong press on the Royal County's kick-outs which goalkeeper Marcus Brennan, already kicking into a stiff wind, struggled to deal with.
Mayo wrapped up the first-half scoring with points from Ryan O'Donoghue and a beauty by Fergal Boland at the end of a patient passing move to lead by 0-7 to 0-1 at half-time.
Mayo played into the wind after the restart and struggled themselves, blasting four wides in a row.
Meath didn't fare any better initially despite having the wind advantage and hit five frustrating wides themselves before James McEntee finally broke the chain of misses with a badly needed goal.
He was at the end of a sweeping move involving Thomas O'Reilly, Bryan Menton and Donal Keogan to palm in from close range, leaving it 0-7 to 1-1.
Ronan Jones then hit a second goal for Meath in the 54th minute and suddenly they led by 2-2 to 0-7, bringing the home crowd to their feet.
McLoughlin had a huge impact late on and it was his scores that ultimately pushed Mayo three clear before late Meath points from Bryan McMahon and O'Reilly that left the minimum in it.
Scorers for Mayo: Kevin McLoughlin 1-2 (1f), James Carr 0-2 (1f), Fergal Boland 0-2, Tommy Conroy 0-1, Patrick Durcan 0-1, Ryan O'Donoghue 0-1.
Scorers for Meath: James McEntee 1-0, Ronan Jones 1-0, B McMahon 0-2 (1f), T O'Reilly 0-1 (f), C O'Sullivan 0-1 (m), Bryan Menton 0-1.
MAYO: Rob Hennelly; Brendan Harrison, James McCormack, Lee Keegan; Eoin O'Donoghue, Michael Plunkett, Patrick Durcan; Stephen Coen, Diarmuid O'Connor; Fergal Boland, Ryan O'Donoghue, James Durcan; Tommy Conroy, James Carr, Aidan O'Shea.
Subs: Kevin McLoughlin for Carr (HT), Conor Loftus for Conroy (HT), Eoghan McLoughlin for McCormack (56), Ciaran Treacy for Durcan (61), Bryan Walsh for Boland (68).
MEATH: Marcus Brennan; Robin Clarke, Conor McGill, David Toner; Brian Conlon, Ronan Ryan, Donal Keogan; Bryan Menton, Ronan Jones; James McEntee, Bryan McMahon, Cillian O'Sullivan; Ethan Devine, Thomas O'Reilly, Shane Walsh.
Subs: Joey Wallace for Walsh (47), Eamon Wallace for Devine (53).
REFEREE: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).