O'Mahony's wobble but seal victory
Meath SFC: Navan O'Mahony's 0-13 Na Fianna 1-8
Unexpected but welcome late drama in Navan yesterday.
With Navan O'Mahony's sauntering to a third Meath SFC title in four years, barely visible under a dark grey Bank Holiday Monday hue in Páirc Tailteann, their opponents, Na Fianna, contrived a little terror.
Because in a match as low on scores and high on attrition as this one, a five-point lead was as safe as a row of houses, it seemed.
Then Na Fianna wing-forward Ethan Devine slammed a goal past O'Mahony's Man of the Match goalkeeper, Marcus Brennan.
Immediately, Na Fianna won the kick-out and subsequently, a free, dispatched expertly by Daniel Queeney.
Thus, O'Mahony's meticulously constructed lead had almost disintegrated with two kicks.
Injury-time. One more chance.
The chilling, bitter wind was forgotten briefly as the frozen congregation raised a clamour.
Brennan's kick-out and the ensuring scramble eventually found an O'Mahony's hand and with Na Fianna pressed so high, they worked an easy, exhaling point for retired Meath forward, Stephen Bray.
"That wasn't a day to be pretty," admitted their manager Davy Nelson afterwards.
"I'm sure it was a poor showpiece.
"The weather simply didn't allow a classic. We find a way no matter what the weather whereas maybe a few years we would have liked it, or needed it even, top of the ground football, like a flat race horse compared to a chaser.
"We'll now chase it against anybody if we have to."
Meath-wise, it wasn't the sort of final to stir the optimism or one that revealed the twinkle of any excavated diamonds.
Bray was the best forward on display, scoring four points from play, though his county days are now over.
Brennan, meanwhile, was probably the most important component of O'Mahony's win, the official Man of the Match and deservedly so given his first-half saves from a Ruairí Ó Coileáin penalty and a point blank, leg stop on Dalton McDonagh.
Otherwise, O'Mahony's were just a more efficient, experienced and successful team and up until their late episode, it showed.
"The nerves were a bit frayed there near the end alright because we had been in complete control," Nelson, whose team now play Longford champions Pearse Óg in the Leinster club SFC, admitted.
"But as ever, when a goal is worth three points and they squirmed one into the net it made it nervous for sure.
"The goal was one of those ones that you have seen in the past.
"However, the composure the lads showed to get the last score was fantastic and it was the same with the two goals in the semi-final.
"We responded immediately.
"That is what champions do - they respond. They don't panic, they respond to adversity," Nelson added.
"We don't do panic in Navan O'Mahony's. I thought we were the best team. Na Fianna did bring an awful lot to the occasion, but I thought we were just that bit better than them."
SCORERS: Navan O'Mahony's: J Regan 0-5 (3f, 1 '45), S Bray 0-4, R Ó Coileáin 0-3 (2f), D Bray 0-1. Na Fianna: E Devine 1-2 (0-1 '45), D Queeney 0-4 (4f), B Clancy, D McDonagh 0-1 each.
NAVAN O'MAHONY'S: M Brennan; J O'Reilly, N McKeigue, D Smyth; B Dillon, D Maguire, G O'Brien; C McGuinness, K Reilly; R O'Coileain, S Bray, A Forde; S Gillespie, D Bray, J Regan. Subs: H Finnegan for Smyth (42 inj), R Maguire for Gillespie (60), D Moran for Ó Coileáin (61).
NA FIANNA: S Geraghty; J Geagan, C Cosgrave, J Baldwin; M Farley, A Neary, D Henrick; O Lewis, B Queeney; D Queeney, J Queeney, E Devine; B Clancy, D McDonagh, C Downey. Subs: S Barrett for B Queeney (h-t), S Barrett for McDonagh (48 inj). Referee: P Coyle (Seneschalstown)