NHL Division 2A: Meath get their first win of 2021 over Wicklow
NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2A
By Daire Walsh
Meath bounced back from a disappointing opening round defeat to Offaly by getting the better of Wicklow at Joule Park, Aughrim on Saturday afternoon.
Having been on the receiving end of a 16-point reversal to the Faithful County, it was difficult to ascertain how the Royals would react in their second game of the Division 2A campaign. Their response was emphatic, with Jack Regan, Padraic O’Hanrahan and Gavin McGowan registering 12 points between them.
Alan Douglas, Mark O’Sullivan and substitute Adam Gannon came away with a brace of points each as the visitors eased their relegation fears for the time being. Wicklow lost out to Carlow last weekend and while there were some signs of encouragement, they have been second best in both of their 2021 games to date.
Christopher Moorehouse remains a reliable source for scores with his five-point haul supplementing the 0-8 he accumulated against the Barrowsiders. Daniel Staunton and Andy O’Brien worked hard in attack, but Meath were not to be denied victory.
The initial signs had been positive for Wicklow, who were in the ascendancy for the vast majority of the opening quarter. Wing-forward Eoin McCormack got the ball rolling for the Garden County in the second-minute, before O’Sullivan responded in kind for Meath.
A dynamic presence on the edge of the square, O’Sullivan comes from a strong sporting family. His brother Cillian has been a regular for the Royal footballers in recent years, while another sibling - Hugh - is currently contracted to Leinster Rugby and has accumulated an impressive 30 first-team appearances for the eastern province.
Either side of a Patrick Conneely score for Meath, Moorehouse and O’Brien found the range to keep Wicklow in the driving seat. While a Douglas placed-ball effort cancelled out this lead, Luke Evans and the ever-dependable Moorehouse registered back-to-back scores to stretch their side into a two-point buffer.
Yet Meath levelled matters through Alan Douglas and McGowan just in time for the first half water break and when the action resumed after a brief intermission, the Royals were the dominant team on show. Three points in succession from O’Hanrahan - including a brace of frees - gave them some much-needed breathing space.
O’Sullivan and James Kelly also posted points to give Meath a commanding 0-10 to 0-5 interval lead. Following this confidence-boosting end to the half, Nick Weir’s charges were ready to lay down a further mark on the restart.
A Regan free increased their advantage, but Wicklow subsequently ended a lengthy scoring drought courtesy of an O’Brien single. This only offered them a temporary respite as McGowan’s two-point salvo helped to reinforce Meath’s superiority.
There could be no questioning the endeavours of Wicklow, however, and Moorehouse was on target either side of another Regan contribution to leave six points between the sides on the third-quarter mark. Still, that difficult period just before the interval had left them with too much of a mountain to scale.
Regan was more than a match for Moorehouse when it came to converting frees and he added four points in the space of 13 minutes - including one score from play - to stretch Meath into an unassailable eight-point cushion.
Staunton and Moorehouse did their utmost to stem the tide in this juncture, with the former also making a scoring contribution during an extended spell of stoppage-time.
Gannon was only introduced from the Meath bench on 64 minutes, but he made a sizeable impact on the proceedings. He slotted over two points at the very end of the play to seal a deserved triumph for Meath.
The Royals will now move on to an away encounter against Kerry at Austin Stack Park in Tralee next Sunday. On the same day, Wicklow will hope to finally pick up their first win of the term when they entertain Down in Aughrim.
Scorers - Meath: Jack Regan 0-6 (5f), Padraic O’Hanrahan (2f), Gavin McGowan 0-3 each, Alan Douglas (f), Mark O’Sullivan, Adam Gannon 0-2 each, James Kelly, Patrick Conneely 0-1 each. Wicklow: Christopher Moorehouse 0-5 (5f), Andy O’Brien (f), Daniel Staunton 0-2 each, Luke Evans, Eoin McCormack 0-1 each.
MEATH: Charlie Ennis; Michael Burke, Shane Whitty, Sean Geraghty; James Kelly, James Toher, Keith Keoghan; Padraic O’Hanrahan, David Reilly; Daithi McGowan, Jack Regan, Alan Douglas; Gavin McGowan, Mark O’Sullivan, Patrick Conneely. Subs: Eamonn Óg O Donnchada for D McGowan (58), Stephen Morris for Hanrahan (61), Damien Healy for Reilly, Jack McGowan for G McGowan, Adam Gannon for O’Sullivan (all 64), Shane Brennan for Burke (74).
WICKLOW: Conor McNally; David Maloney, Michael Mangan, Martin O’Brien; Gary Byrne, John Henderson, Peter Keane; Jack Doyle, Luke Evans; Daniel Staunton, Andy Walsh, Eoin McCormack; Andy O’Brien, Christopher Moorehouse, Michael Boland. Subs: Wayne Kinsella for Doyle (49), Torna Mulconry for Boland (50), Mark Murphy for Evans (56), Matthew Traynor for McCormack (61).
Referee: Thomas Gleeson (Dublin).