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Down and out after Meath find their top gear

Down 2-15 Meath 4-19

Quest ended: Down’s Ronan Sheehan reflects on defeat
Quest ended: Down’s Ronan Sheehan reflects on defeat

By Coilin Duffy

Down's quest for a first Christy Ring Cup title since 2013 continues, after Meath took silverware thanks to a 10-point win at Croke Park on Saturday.

A strong fourth quarter was key to this Meath win, as Down were held to just one point in the closing minutes, after initially cutting the gap to two points entering the final quarter.

Ronan Sheehan's side finished with 14 men, after a 68th minute red card for defender Marc Fisher, who scored two first half points.

Down were guilty of some missed opportunities, particularly in the first quarter - firing six wides in the opening 13 minutes.

Meath had 1-5 on the board, including an Adam Gannon goal, before Down's opening score from Daithi Sands.

Meath moved 10 clear, but Down came good with five unanswered points, as Toner, Marc Fisher (2), Paul Sheehan (2) and Oisín McManus found the target.

This helped Down cut the gap to five, and although the sides swapped points, Down were inspired after Sheehan fired a 34th minute penalty goal.

The Newry Shamrocks clubman's effort, coupled with a fine goal from play from Daithi Sands helped level the contest at 2-8 to 1-11 in first half injury-time.

However, a fifth point of the half from Jack Regan handed the Royals a slender lead at the interval.

Down worked hard on the restart, but substitute Nicholas Potterton grabbed Meath's third goal, to open the second half scoring.

Meath manager Nick Fitzgerald felt this was a key moment.

"It was a score that was badly needed. Adam Gannon was after working his absolute heart out at that stage. Adam could have probably had a goal there as well, but it just didn't work out. Adam kept on working tirelessly there today and he came off as a result of a bang to the head.

"Going back to Nicky it didn't faze him - 18 years old and on in Croke Park for the first time and a goal and a point."

Twice Down cut the gap to two points, including in the 51st minute after Sheehan brought his tally to 1-7.

However, this was as close as the Mourne County got to the Royals, as Meath reached top gear in the final quarter.

They cut in for their fourth goal two minutes into injury-time, with Callum O'Sullivan confirming a 10-point win.

MEATH: S McGann; G Murphy, D Kelly, S Whitty; S Brennan 0-1, K Keoghan, J Kelly; S Geraghty, C McCabe; D Healy 0-1, B Slevin 0-2, J Regan 0-9, 4f, 3 '65; G McGowan, A Douglas 0-1, A Gannon 2-3. Subs: N Potterton 1-1 for Slevin HT; J Keena 0-1 for McGowan 50; S Morris for Kelly 50; C O'Sullivan 1-0 for Gannon 61. C Ó Mealoid for Douglas 70.

DOWN: S Keith; T Murray, C Taggart, D Mallon; M Fisher 0-2, J McManus, M Conlan; P Savage, L Savage; D Toner 0-2, P Sheehan 1-8, 1-0pen, 6f, 1 '65, T Prenter; D Sands 1-1, E Sands 0-1, O McManus 0-1. Subs: M Patterson for Murray HT; C O'Prey for Prenter 42; R Blair for McManus 61; R McCusker for Sheehan 65.

Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin)

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