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McEntee vents fury over referee as Royals crash through trapdoor

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PULLING THE TRIGGER: Galway’s Paul Conroy shoots for goal as Conor McGill of Meath closes in during the Allianz FL Division 1 match at Páirc Tailteann in Navan. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

PULLING THE TRIGGER: Galway’s Paul Conroy shoots for goal as Conor McGill of Meath closes in during the Allianz FL Division 1 match at Páirc Tailteann in Navan. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

PULLING THE TRIGGER: Galway’s Paul Conroy shoots for goal as Conor McGill of Meath closes in during the Allianz FL Division 1 match at Páirc Tailteann in Navan. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Another week, another 'what if?' Meath defeat, all culminating in what has appeared increasingly inevitable this spring - a return ticket to Division 2.

Perhaps just as inevitable was another 'woe-is-Meath' lament from Andy McEntee about the influence of officialdom - in this case Fermanagh referee Niall Cullen and one of his linesmen.

But more of those Royal complaints later. The key fact is that Meath have been demoted two games ahead of schedule after losing five on the spin, again narrowly.

On the flip side, table-topping Galway have taken a giant step closer to a Division 1 final after a comeback victory sealed by a brace of late points from captain and full-time inspiration Shane Walsh.

As the clock hit 30 minutes in Navan, you'd have struggled to envisage that scenario.

Propelled by a strong wind, the hosts had rattled of 1-4 without reply to establish eight-point daylight, at 1-6 to 0-1, Ethan Devine finishing an incisive passing move after a Galway turnover with a drilled 15th minute goal.

But then the game turned. Galway hit the last four points of the half - a trilogy of Walsh frees complemented by Eamonn Brannigan's fine effort - to trail by 1-6 to 0-5.

By then, Royal blood was coming to the boil. Meath had been left incensed when Cullen initially played on but then belatedly booked James McEntee after he collided with Gary O'Donnell, who went down in a heap.

The last of those Walsh frees, punishing Devine, was a source of even greater angst. McEntee was in the referee's ear as he exited at half-time against a rising crescendo of complaints from the main stand in a crowd of 5,000.

"He gave a free against Ethan Devine for a one-handed hand pass which he is allowed to do if one hand is been held. The ref said it was a one-handed throw," the Meath boss later complained.

Next in the line of fire was Galway's alleged chicanery.

"Galway did what they were allowed to do … you have a group of officials there who are supposed to prevent that and yet they didn't prevent it," McEntee claimed.

"And it changed the pace of the game, it changed the scoreline dramatically enough. There is only two points in it at the end. If you are going to get away with it, why wouldn't you do it? They got away with it because the officials didn't take the appropriate action ... we are trying to take kick-outs, lads are trying to make a run and they get dragged to the ground."

Asked if the referee may have got it wrong on both sides, McEntee disagreed. "The most influential period in that game was the ten minutes before half-time and he was the biggest factor in that," he argued. "Sorry, him and the linesman on this side."

Anger bubbled over in other ways. Late in the half, there was almost a coming-together on the touchline as Meath selector Donal Curtis had words with Padraic Joyce.

"He wasn't squaring up, he was arguing," the Galway boss clarified. "But I don't know why they were getting angry with him (the referee) because they were fouling."

As for McEntee's complaints, Joyce professed: "My opinion is that the referee refereed the game fairly all day long. And I was as unhappy with some of them, but that's the nature of refereeing.

"I saw a couple of Meath lads trying to drag our Galway fellas down to the ground, trying to get them in trouble, that were in (card) trouble. Look it, these things happen, it's 50-50 ... and there's no point complaining."

Joyce had plenty to complain about Galway's initial efforts ("We obviously were a bit complacent at the start") but thrilled with their "great character" in the second half.

In truth, they were facilitated by a careless crossfield ball from Meath's Brian Conlon - straight to Ronan Steede, who linked with Walsh and Paul Conroy before pulling the trigger for a 40th minute goal.

Veteran sub Conroy had already been fouled for two converted frees and, thereafter, he was immense, kicking 0-3 from play - plus a mark.

Yet, despite leading by three on the hour, Galway left the door ajar. Bryan McMahon landed his third point in a productive shift while Donal Lenihan came off the Meath bench to kick 0-3, including two frees and a superb equaliser on 69 minutes.

But, from the next kickout, Walsh reminded us why he's one of the most mesmerising ball-carriers in football with an inspirational point on the run, the same player adding a tap-over insurance free at the death.

SCORERS - Galway: S Walsh 0-7 (6f), R Steede 1-1, P Conroy 0-4 (1m), M Daly, E Brannigan 0-1 each. Meath: J Conlon, B McMahon, D Lenihan (2f) 0-3 each, E Devine 1-0, B Menton 0-2, O O'Brien 0-1.

MEATH: M Brennan 6; R Clarke 6, C McGill 6, D Toner 6; J McEntee 7, R Ryan 6, D Keogan 7; B Menton 8, B Conlon 6; E Devine 6, B McMahon 8, C O'Sullivan 6; J Conlon 7, T O'Reilly 6, O O'Brien 6. Subs: S Walsh 6 for O'Brien (48), D Lenihan 7 for Devine (55), P Harnan for B Conlon (65), J O'Connor for J Conlon (65).

GALWAY: C Gleeson 6; S Mulkerrin 6, S Kelly 7, J Heaney 6; L Silke 6, J Daly 6, G O'Donnell 6; R Steede 7, T Flynn 7; E Brannigan 6, C D'Arcy 6, M Daly 7; M Farragher 5, S Walsh 8, A Varley 6. Subs: P Conroy 8 for Farragher (27), G Bradshaw 6 for O'Donnell (52), R Finnerty 6 for Varley (55), D Silke 6 for M Daly (61), M Barrett for Steede (65).

WIDES: Galway 6 (3+3); Meath 7 (4+3)

YELLOW: Galway 2 (Varley 35, Kelly 35+2); Meath 3 (McEntee 23, O'Brien 32, Clarke 35)

BLACK: Galway 0; Meath 1 (O'Reilly 75)

REF: N Cullen (Fermanagh)

ATT: 5,000

MAN OF THE MATCH: Paul Conroy (Galway)

GALWAY1-14

MEATH1-12

ALLIANZ NFL DIVISION 1