McEntee devastated as Royals pipped
Donegal won't be drastically shortening their All-Ireland odds with this performance although they may grow from it.
They came to Navan on a sunny Saturday and held their nerve to win a match in injury-time that was tied on 11 occasions. Their manager Rory Gallagher spoke of their character as they continue to repair the damage to their confidence inflicted by Tyrone in the Ulster Championship.
"I would be delighted with the effort," Gallagher stated at the end. "Two weeks now until we are ready to go again."
He was especially grateful to Patrick McBrearty for sparing them extra-time. Donegal's most dangerous forward finished with four points from play, to complement three frees, and his last is the one that will be remembered. With the teams deadlocked and 71 minutes played he found a half-yard and kicked a point from the 45m line with his left foot.
Meath were unhappy with the refereeing of Derek O'Mahoney and at the final whistle Andy McEntee, their manager, made his way towards the Tipperary match official.
They felt they had claims for a free in a last-ditch attack before the allotted three minutes of injury-time expired. But the free which levelled the teams in the 70th minute, cooly converted by Donal Lenihan, looked a generous award and earlier a Donegal goal was disallowed for a square ball.
Lenihan finished with seven points, missing nothing from placed balls, and while Michel Murphy didn't demonstrate his usual precision, missing two frees and two 45s, and also wide with another effort from play, he was the most influential player on the pitch.
When Donegal were struggling their captain did the work. At one point he ran back 40 metres to dispossess Brian Conlon. He also scored five points, three from play, including a brilliant right-footed curler from 50m in the first half.
Paddy McGrath spent the evening following Graham Reilly and after a rousing early score the Meath man failed to register again. Cillian O'Sullivan scored 1-1 but had to go off five minutes from the end when black-carded after a foul on Mark McHugh.
Meath defended in numbers, and Bryan Menton and Brian Conlon, a relative newcomer, stood out in the middle of the field. At the back Conor McGill made two goal-stopping interceptions, one in each half.
McEntee could not hide his disappointment, admitted to being "devastated".
Scorers: Donegal - P McBrearty 0-7 (0-3 fs), M Murphy 0-5 (0-2 fs), R McHugh 1-0, J McGee 0-2, F McGlynn 0-1. Meath - D Lenihan 0-7 (0-7 fs), C O'Sullivan 1-1, D Keogan, R O Coileain, B Menton, J McEntee, S McEntee, G Reilly 0-1.
Donegal: M McGinley; P McGrath, N McGee, C Ward; R McHugh, F McGlynn, E Gallagher; J McGee, C Thompson; C Gillespie, M O'Reilly, E McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, H McFadden. Subs: M McElhinney for Thompson (42 mins); J Brennan for McFadden (48); K Lacey for O'Reilly (57); M McHugh for McGlynn (59).
Meath: P O'Rourke; D Keoghan, C McGill, M Burke; P Harnan, B Power, S McEntee; B Menton, B Conlon; R O Coileain, J McEntee, G Reilly; S Tobin, C O'Sullivan, D Lenihan. Subs: M Newman for Tobin (half time); D Tobin for S McEntee (61); E Wallace for O'Sullivan (blac bard 65).
Referee: D O'Mahoney (Tipperary)