Thursday 21 November 2019

It's job done as Royals book place in Super 8

Nervy Meath do just enough to see off the challenge of battling Banner men

Meath’s Mickey Newman scores his side’s second goal despite the efforts of Clare’s Cillian Brennan
Meath’s Mickey Newman scores his side’s second goal despite the efforts of Clare’s Cillian Brennan

Meath claimed the final 'Super 8s' spot with a nervy but deserved win over Clare in O'Moore Park.

The crucial moments of the game came around the 40-minute mark when Clare struck for a goal through Gavin Cooney, only for the Royals to reply swiftly with a goal of their own through a well-worked Mickey Newman effort after he swapped passes with Padraic Harnan.

Clare stayed in touch as the Royals squandered some big chances late in the day but they did just enough to hold on in injury time and make the last eight of the championship for the first time since 2010.

And that marked another milestone for this Meath team who have enjoyed a productive season after gaining promotion from division two.

"Job done, we set out a target at the start for he year to get promotion, to get to a Leinster final and to get to the Super 8s and we have achieved that," selector Finian Murtagh said.

"It's a huge credit to every one involved. I'm thrilled, you can say we made hard work of it but Clare were outstanding in patches of that game today and some of the scores they kicked were outstanding and we were at the pin of our collars to win that game."

Murtagh, along with coach Colm Nally, were on media duty in place of manager Andy McEntee after he had clashed with a local reporter in Croke Park after their heavy Leinster final defeat to Dublin.

And he insisted that spat didn't affect the team's preparations.

"Seriously that wasn't even mentioned," he said.

History weighed heavily on Meath coming into this game. Not since 2009, when Kildare saw off division four Wicklow, had the vanquished Leinster finalists bounced back from defeat to win a qualifier.

Psychologically they had a battle on their hands too. A meagre four-point haul against Dublin and defeat to Clare would have left a sour taste after a year of progress.

The first half was very even, with the sides level eight times with neither side managing to move more than a point clear until Bryan Menton's goal as the clock hit 35 minutes.

Menton followed up to slide home after Donal Keogan had a shot cleared off the line. However, Clare steadied brilliantly and hit back with two points, including Jamie Malone's fourth of the half to ensure the sides went in level at the break (1-9 to 0-12).

The second half was similarly tight but Meath's instant response to Clare's goal gave them a lead they would never relinquish, even if there were some nervy moments late on.

"I think when you lose a one-point game it's so easy to point to things," said Colm Collins, who wouldn't be drawn on his future as Banner boss.

"Meath did the same thing at the other end. They made the same kind of mistakes that we made. I think they gave it everything and fair play to Meath, congratulations to them."

Meath's gradual improvement continues but they will face a much stiffer test next weekend when they travel to Donegal for the first round of the Super 8s followed by clashes with Mayo and Kerry.

"The next four weeks we are going to be playing three of the top teams in the country and that's where any manager wants to be," Murtagh said.

SCORERS - Meath: M Newman 1-6 (5f), J Conlon 0-3, B Menton 1-0, D Keogan, E Devine, T McGovern, B McMahon, S Walsh (1f), B Brennan, C O'Sullivan 0-1 each. Clare: D Tubridy 0-6 (3f), J Malone 0-4, G Cooney 1-0, C O'Connor, E Cleary (1f) 0-2 each, C O'Dea, G Kelly, G Brennan, D Coughlan 0-1 each

Meath: A Colgan; S Lavin, C McGill, S Gallagher; D Keogan, P Harnan, G McCoy; B Menton,S McEntee; E Devine, B McMahon, T McGovern; C O'Sullivan, M Newman, J Conlon. Subs: T O'Reilly for Newman (BS 43-54) , G Reilly for McGovern (45), S Walsh for Newman (54), S Curran for Gallagher (60), B Brennan for Devine (62), S Tobin for Conlon (72), T O'Reilly for McMahon (BC 74).

Clare: S Ryan; G Kelly, C Brennan, D Ryan; S Collins, A Fitzgerald, K Harnett; G Brennan, C O'Connor; S O'Donoghue, E Cleary, J Malone; G Cooney, D Tubridy, C O'Dea Subs: K Malone for O'Donoghue (47), D Coughlan for Cooney (54), E O'Connor for Kelly (BC 62), G O'Brien for Ryan (64), E Courtney for Cleary (72)

Referee: D O'Mahoney (Tipperary)

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