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National Football League: Meath 0-17 Tyrone 1-14

It finished honours even at Pairc Tailteann in Navan yesterday afternoon in a gripping encounter that was played with a championship intensity throughout with the result seeing Meath narrowly avoiding relegation.

Played in glorious conditions it was a first half that ebbed and flowed with Tyrone shading it 0-8 to 0-6 although Meath kicked twice as many wides as the visitors.

Red Hands midfielder Aidan Cassidy fisted the opening score of the game before a Martin Penrose effort doubled their advantage after nine minutes. Twice Joe Sheridan had a sight of goal but on both occasions his shot lacked power before Shane O’Rourke opened the Royals account.

Brian McGuigan then landed a superb point with his weaker left foot and with Penrose and Mark Donnelly also on target Tyrone established a 0-5 to 0-2 advantage.

That’s when the home side enjoyed their best spell of the game with the long ball into the towering Paddy O’Rourke reaping them dividends. Sheridan and O’Rourke both pointed from play with Cian Ward converting two frees.

Tyrone finished the half the stronger with points from Sean Cavanagh, Penrose and Colm Cavanagh and they could have had a goal with Damian McCaul collecting a pass from McGuigan only to fire low across the goalmouth.

If the football was good in the first half it was surpassed after the break as both sides gave it their all. Joe McMahon knocked over a “45” but Meath responded with Brian Meade and Nigel Crawford both on target.

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In the 14th minute Tyrone struck for a goal when Donnelly cut through the Meath defence only to be denied by keeper Brendan Murphy but Penrose rose highest to palm the rebound to the net.

With the possibility of making the league final Tyrone were expected to drive on but with the Leinster champions fighting for their survival they weren’t going to give up without a fight.

Graham Reilly, Paddy Gilsenan and Sheridan all had points to bring the sides level before Reilly edged Meath in front.

Penrose levelled matters only for Reilly to kick his fourth point of the second half. Tyrone weren’t to be denied though and a surging run from Sean Cavanagh saw him win a free which Penrose converted to give them a deserved share off the spoils.

Meanwhile in Portlaoise Donegal tasted defeat when Laois emerged 1-15 to 1-11 winners but Jim McGuinness’ side have an opportunity to put that result right in two weeks time when they face the Leinster men again in the Division Two league final.

Meath: B Murphy, C King, S McAnarney [0-1], G O’Brien, M O’Sullivan, B Menton [0-1], C Lenihan, B Meade [0-1], N Crawford [0-1], S Kenny, S O’Rourke [0-1], G Reilly [0-4], P O’Rourke [0-2], J Sheridan [0-2], C Ward [0-2]. Subs: P Gilsenan [0-1] for Kenny, K Reilly for S O’Rourke, M Ward for Meade, B Farrell [0-1] for C Ward

Tyrone: P McConnell, M Swift, J McMahon [0-1], D McCaul, D Harte, C Gormley [0-1], R McMenamin, K Hughes, A Cassidy [0-2], C Cavanagh [0-1], B McGuigan [0-1], S Cavanagh [0-1], M Penrose [1-6], M Donnelly [0-1], O Mulligan. Subs: S O’Neill for Harte, B Dooher for C Cavanagh, P Harte for Mulligan

Referee: D Fahy (Longford).

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