O’Sullivan and Morris run riot for Meath as Royal county ease to victory over demoralised Down
By Tom McLoughlin
Image via RTE
Meath took another step to making an immediate return to Division One with a comprehensive win over the men from the Mourne County in the Athletic Grounds, Armagh. Down lost home advantage due to breaching Covid-19 regulations and it was not to be the only defeat they endured. The game was played in horrendous weather, particularly the first half where a hailstorm made conditions difficult for both sets of players.
Meath adapted better and raced into a 0-04 to 0-1 lead after 10 minutes despite playing this period with 14 men after Eoin Harkin was black carded by referee Niall Cullen for pulling down Down’s Liam Kerr. The scores for Meath in the early stages came from Cathal Hickey, Matthew Costello, the imperious Cillian O’Sullivan, along with goalkeeper Andy Colgan courtesy of a 45. A brilliant mark and point from the industrious Bryan McMahon from distance extended Meath’s lead in the 16th minute and Meath would go into the first water break with a lead of 0-5 to 0-2, Corey Quinn being the only shining light in the first quarter for Down pointing twice and could also have had a goal but was denied by Colgan.
However, the Ulstermen stepped it up a notch in the second quarter and had a period of dominance. Whilst not taking advantage of Harkin’s black card in the early moments of the game, they certainly benefitted from the sinbinning of Shane McEntee for Meath in the 23rd minute. Paul Devlin was prominent from placed balls scoring three of his overall tally of 5 frees during this period. Caolan Mooney and Ryan McEvoy also stepped up for Down and took the game to Meath so much so that at half time, Down went into the dressing room just two points in arrears 0-8 to 0-6. Paddy Tally would have been much the happier of the managers at this stage.
However, the third quarter was completely dominated by the Leinster men, outscoring their opponents 2-4 to 0-3 during this period fully exploiting the black carding of Down’s Johnny Flynn in the 45th minute. Jordan Morris opened the scoring in the second half with a beautiful point with his left foot, which was the first of his four points in this quarter in an overall haul for the day of 0-7. Cillian O’Sullivan scored the first of his two goals in the 43rd minute when he pulled on the ball on the ground to see it hit the net in off the post past the hapless Mark Reid to put Meath 1-10 to 0-7 to the good.
That same post proved lucky again for O’Sullivan in the 47thminute when he put the game beyond any doubt with a wonderfully taken goal. O’Sullivan chipped the ball off the ground majestically, scythed through the Down defence before rounding Reid to tuck the ball in the corner off the post. Andy McEntee’s side had a ten point lead and the game was essentially over.
The final quarter saw a raft of substitutions from both managers and the game somewhat petered out. Ethan Devine and Morris kept the Meath scoreboard ticking over while Down to their credit rallied and replied through McEvoy, Devlin and Barry O’Hagan. However, to add insult to injury for the Mournemen, full back Gerard McGovern was shown a red card just before full-time. Meath ran out comfortable victors on a score line of 2-15 to 0-14 and Down have now worryingly shipped two heavy defeats in the space of 8 days.
Next up for Meath in Round Three of the league is a trip to Castlebar to face Mayo with both sides already through to the semi-finals. Meath will be looking to avenge their defeat to Mayo in Navan last year where only a late Kevin McLoughlin goal salvaged a win for Mayo. As for Down, they travel to Mullingar to face Westmeath next weekend with both sides pointless after two rounds and facing into relegation to Division Three.
Scorers – Down: P Devlin 0-5 (5 frees), C Quinn 0-4 (1 free), R McEvoy 0-2 (1 free), C McCrickard 0-2 (1 mark), B O’Hagan 0-1 (1 free) Meath: J Morris 0-7 (3 frees), C O’Sullivan 2-1, A Colgan 0-1 (1 45), C Hickey 0-1, E Devine0-1 (1 mark), B McMahon 0-1 (1 mark), M Costello 0-1, T O’Reilly 0-1 (1 free), E Wallace 0-1
Down: M Reid; P Fegan, G McGovern, P Murdock; P Laverty, D O’Hagan, C Mooney; R McEvoy, J Flynn; J Guinness, B O’Hagan, L Kerr; D Guinness, C Quinn, P Devlin Subs: C Doherty for J Guinness (42), P Branagan for Mooney (50), S McConville for Kerr (50), G Collins for D O’Hagan (53), C Gough for Flynn (55), C McCrickard for B O’Hagan (55), D Savage for Quinn (63)
Meath: A Colgan; S Lavin, C McGill, C Hickey; E Harkin, S McEntee, D Keogan; B Menton, P Harnan; E Devine, B McMahon, M Costello, J Morris, T O’Reilly, C O’SullivanSubs: R Ryan for Harkin (24), J Wallace for O’Reilly (47), E Wallace for Hickey (54), J Scully for McMahon (54), J Conlon for Morris (62), D Campion for O’Sullivan (62), G McCoy for McEntee (70)
Venue: Athletic Grounds, Thurles
Man of the Match: Jordan Morris (Meath)
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)