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Tyrone survive after being taken to the limit by Meath

Meath 0-19 Tyrone 2-14

By Kevin Kelly

Tyrone survived but only just after they were taken to the pin of their collars by Meath in the opening round of the qualifiers in an extra-time thriller at Pairc Tailteann in Navan on Saturday evening.

The visitors dominated the first half of normal time but after a bright start they were wasteful and only went in with a two-point lead.

That gave Meath hope and roared on by a big home support the Royals hit back in the second half and came within moments of victory only for Cathal McShane to hit an outstanding equaliser right at the end.

In extra-time Tyrone grabbed an early goal from Harry Loughran and when they moved five points clear it looked as though they would ease to victory, but again the hosts threw everything at them to reduce the deficit to the minimum and Mickey Harte was a relieved man at the final whistle.

"I think we brought a bit on ourselves," admitted Harte.

"Near the end of the first half we had chances to put the game out of sight but we missed so much and you felt that this was going to come back to bite you and it did come back to bite us almost in a very big way.

"When they got that free at the end with a minute and a bit to go it looked like the game was up for us but I think that the players showed great drive, composure and resilience to come back and create a scoring chanced and then to take it."

Added Harte: "We are very lucky, lucky to get a second chance in extra time and after starting it well to put ourselves in a very good position we let it slip again to leave us fighting to the bitter end so we need to take stock and try and protect our leads a bit better and when we also need to be more clinical with the chances that we create."

Connor McAliskey was on fire in the early stages for Tyrone, hitting 1-3 in the opening nine minutes, but Meath were level by the end of the opening quarter with Ben Brennan, Donal Lenihan and Cillian O'Sullivan among their points.

McAliskey landed another brace before wing half-back Michael McKernan became only the second Tyrone player to get his name on the scoresheet.

Tyrone were on top but failed to put their opponents away with Padraig McNulty being denied by a fine save from Meath ' keeper Andrew Colgan while McAliskey hit the side netting before somehow blasting against the bar from close range.

A Brennan brace levelled matters on the restart and after McAliskey and Joey Wallace had traded points centre half back Frank Burns edged Tyrone back in front with a quality score.

Meath though had their tails up and an equaliser from Mickey Burke was followed by a point from a Brennan free to put them in front for the first time in the 52nd minute, 0-12 to 1-8.

Burns kicked another superb point but Brennan replied for Meath before Tyrone lost Tiernan McCann to a straight red card in the 66th minute.

A McAliskey free levelled it going into injury time but five minutes into the added time Brennan scored again. The same player was then sent off for a second booking before McShane forced extra time with a wonder score, 0-14 to 1-11.

McAliskey and James McEntee swapped points before substitutes Ronan O'Neill and Harry Loughran combined for the latter to palm in a Tyrone goal. McShane and Niall Sludden tagged on points and while O'Sullivan had the final say in the first period of extra time for Meath the visitors were looking good, leading 2-14 to 0-16.

Tyrone though failed to kill their opponents off as they didn't score in the second period. Meath had points from Thomas O'Reilly, Shane Glynn and Lenihan to set up a tense finish but Tyrone just about held on, getting the benefit of the doubt right at the end when McEntee appeared to be fouled which would have given Meath an opportunity to force another bout of extra-time.

Meath: A Colgan, S Lavin, C McGill, S Curran, J McEntee (0-2), D Keogan (0-1), S Gallagher, B Menton, A Flanagan, C O'Sullivan (0-2), B Brennan (0-6, 3F), M Burke (0-1), J Wallace (0-1), G Reilly, D Lenihan (0-4, 4F). Subs: E Wallace for Burke, T O'Reilly (0-1) for Lenihan, D O'Neill for McGill, B McMahon for J Wallace, D Lenihan for Lavin, S Glynn (0-1) for Gallagher, C O'Brien for Brennan (extra time to take side up to 15 again)

Tyrone: M O'Neill, P Hampsey, R McNamee, HP McGeary, T McCann, F Burns (0-2), M McKernan (0-1), C Cavanagh, P McNulty, M Donnelly, N Sludden (0-1), C Meyler, C McShane (0-2), R Donnelly, C McAliskey (1-8, 6F). Subs: R Brennan for McGeary, K McGeary for Meyler, H Loughran (1-0) for R Donnelly, R McNabb for McNamee, C Meyler for McKernan, D McClure for McNulty, C McCann for McShane, A McCrory for Hampsey, R O'Neill for T McCann (extra time to take side up to 15 again)

Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).

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