McCartan buoyed despite Down's tight loss against Meath
Meath 1-14 Down 1-11: The unpredictability of Meath and Down was always going to produce an interesting result, and so it proved as the Royal County edged out James McCartan's side on Saturday night.
"We're happy enough with how the League has gone," said McCartan.
"You only have three home games and we knew it was going to be tough. Our last two games are on the road and we knew that was going to be hard and we have another hard one next Sunday against Laois."
They were also encouraged by the return of Ambrose Rogers, who lasted 55 minutes and hit a goal.
"We were probably throwing him in the deep end there tonight, I wouldn't say he's 100 per cent yet but we wanted to get game-time into his legs before the Championship," McCartan said.
For much of the second half it looked as if the Mourne men would prevail but they ran out of scores in the final quarter, during which they were outscored by six points to two with late points from Stephen Bray (two) and Shane O'Rourke proving decisive.
Points from Bryan Menton and Graham Reilly reduced the arrears to the minimum (0-6 to 0-7) at the end of a very poor quality first half during which the sides were on level terms four times.
Down lost Conor Laverty to a black card after only nine minutes and Conor Garvey suffered a similar fate in the second period as the standard improved.
The introduction of veteran Seamus Kenny helped to steady the Royal rearguard, O'Rourke again impressed at centrefield and Reilly, Bray and Damien Carroll made significant contributions up front.
Fourteen minutes after the restart Reilly took a pass from Carroll, who had switched from defence to attack, to fire to net and give Meath a 1-8 to 0-9 lead.
But the cheering for the score had barely died down when Ambrose Rodgers raised the green flag at the other end. Down failed to press home their advantage with their forwards inclined to overdo the hand-passing.
Meath: P O'Rourke; E Harrington, K Reilly, C Young; S Curran, D Keogan, D Carroll (0-2, 1 free); B Menton (0-1), S O'Rourke (0-2); D Tobin, G Reilly (1-2), A Tormey (0-2); D McDonagh, S Bray (0-3), M Newman (0-1, free). Subs: D Larkin for Newman (26), S Kenny (0-1) for Curran (33), P Gilsenan for Harrington (48), D Bray for McDonagh (55), M O'Sullivan for Tormey (70).
Down: S Harrison; D McCartan (0-1), B McArdle, O Costello; R Boyle, A Carr, C Garvey; P Turley, K McKernan; C Laverty, M Poland (0-1), C Maginn; D O'Hare (0-6, 6 frees), N Madine (0-1), A Rodgers (1-0). Subs: J Johnson (0-1) for Laverty ( 9, black card), P Devlin (0-1, free) for Rodgers (55), B Coulter for Johnston (58), D Rooney for Garvey (62, black card), D O'Hanlon for Boyle (65).
Referee: P O'Sullivan (Kerry).