Paul Keane reports from Páirc Tailteann
FAVOURITES MEATH DICED with disaster in Navan, trailing raging underdogs Offaly by four points with 15 minutes to go, before eventually coming good to secure a Leinster SFC quarter-final place.
Andy McEntee’s side, promoted from Division 2 of the Allianz league during spring, looked in real trouble when they slipped 0-13 to 0-9 down deep into the second-half.
Offaly had just reeled off seven points without reply to put themselves in a winning position but couldn’t hold on as they chased a first away win in the Leinster championship since 1997.
A Meath scoring surge that yielded 1-4 between the 56th and 72nd minutes ultimately propelled the 2010 champions to a May 25 quarter-final clash with Carlow.
Bryan McMahon scored 1-1 during that late burst and his 63rd minute goal, when he rose up to break a high ball in and then tapped in from close range, was the crucial score.
It moved Meath from a point behind to two ahead and sub James Conlon added another score at the death to put some gloss on the scoreline.
But there was no escaping the fact that Meath narrowly sidestepped an embarrassing defeat to a side that struggled in Division 3 and boss Andy McEntee admitted afterwards there were few smiles in their dressing-room.
They reeled off four points in a row late in the first-half to lead 0-9 to 0-6 at half-time but were unconvincing generally.
Offaly restarted with gusto and hit those seven points in a row early in the second-half including three from Niall McNamee who was playing in his first Championship game since 2017 after returning from retirement.
Shane Horan, a Dublin based Kilmacud Crokes player and debutant, also pointed to open up that four-point gap.
But Meath finally got it going in the last quarter of the game and McMahon was their hero as they escaped to victory and breathed sighs of relief.
Scorers for Meath: Bryan McMahon 1-2, Michael Newman 0-4 (0-3f), 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 (0-4f), Peter Cunningham 0-2, Eoin Carroll 0-2, Bernard Allen 0-2 (0-1f), Shane Horan 0-1, Niall Darby 0-1.
1. Andrew Colgan (Donaghmore Ashbourne)
2. Seamus Lavin (St Peter’s, Dunboyne)
3. Conor McGill (Ratoath)
4. Shane Gallagher (Simonstown Gaels)
5. James McEntee (Curraha)
6. Donal Keogan (Rathkenny)
7. Gavin McCoy (St Peter’s, Dunboyne)
8. Bryan Menton (Donaghmore Ashbourne)
9. Shane McEntee (St Peter’s, Dunboyne)
10. Cillian O’Sullivan (Moynalvey)
11. Bryan McMahon (Ratoath)
12. Ben Brennan (St Colmcilles)
13. Barry Dardis (Summerhill)
14. Mickey Newman (Kilmainham)
15. Thomas O’Reilly (Wolfe Tones)
21. Adam Flanagan (Clonard) for S McEntee (h/t)
18. James Conlon (St Colmcilles) for Dardis (42)
23. Graham Reilly (St Colmcilles) for O’Reilly (50)
22. Sean Tobin (Simonstown Gaels) for Brennan (52)
19. Eoin Lynch (Longwood) for J McEntee (54)
20. Padraic Harnan (Moynalvey) for Newman (75)
1. Paddy Dunican (Shamrocks)
2. Declan Hogan (Tullamore)
3. Eoin Rigney (Rhode)
4. David Dempsey (Ballycommon)
5. Cian Donohue (St Brigid’s)
6. Johnny Moloney (Tullamore)
7. Niall Darby (Rhode)
8. Eoin Carroll (Cappincur)
9. Peter Cunningham (Bracknagh)
10. Shane Horan (Kilmacud Crokes)
11. Anton Sullivan (Rhode)
12. Cathal Mangan (Kilclonfert)
13. Bernard Allen (Tubber)
14. Niall McNamee (Rhode)
15. Ruairi McNamee (Rhode)
20. Shane Tierney (Daingean) for Sullivan (55)
18. Joseph O’Connor (St Rynagh’s) for Horan (59)
17. Paul McConway (Tullamore) for Carroll (65)
19. Mark Abbott (Edenderry) for R McNamee (66)
24. Conor Carroll (Raheen) for Cunningham (72)
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).
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