The Meath players celebrate with the Christy Ring Cup after victory over Down.
The Meath players celebrate with the Christy Ring Cup after victory over Down. 

Meath too good for Down in Christy Ring Cup Final

Christy Ring Cup Final

MEATH 4-19 DOWN 2-15

By John Harrington at Croke Park

A strong second-half surge drove Meath to victory over Down in today’s Christy Ring Cup Final.

The Mourne-men had fought back valiantly from a disastrous start, but they ran out of gas in the final 20 minutes of the match and in the end it was a comfortable enough win for the Royals.

At one stage, it looked like they might have the game wrapped up by half-time.

They led by 1-8 to 0-1 by the 22nd minute, and were superior to a very nervous looking Down team in every facet of the game.

Their half-back line of Shane Brennan, Keith Keoghan, and James Kelly were dominant, and that ensured a steady supply of ball was making its way into the Meath attack.

Adam Gannon was in the mood to make the most of it, scoring a classy point and then following that up with the first goal of the match.

Winning the ball wide on the left he put on the afterburners and raced towards goal before finishing crisply.

At the other end of the field Down were far less clinical. They had already hit four wides by the eight minute and had all the hallmarks of a team suffering from stage-fright.

Things very nearly went from bad to worse for them when Meath full-forward Alan Douglas won a penalty, but Down goalkeeper Stephen Keith pulled off a fine save from Jack Regan’s strike.

Douglas was his team’s saviour again five minutes later when he made an even better save from Damien Healy’s sizzling, low shot.

As if inspired by their custodian, Down finally started to hurl with some real intent and steadily dragged their way back into the contest.

They scored five points in a six-minute burst between the 23rd and 29th minutes, and their self-belief suddenly blossomed.

Meath’s livewire corner-forward Gannon hit a couple of sweet points to keep his team ticking over, but it was Down who finished the half with their tails up as they struck for two goals.

First Paul Sheehan blasted a penalty to the net after Eoghan Sands was hauled down, and then Daithi Sands really got the Down supporters when he struck a brilliant second in first-half injury-time.

He did brilliantly to evade the challenges of Keith Keoghan and Shane Witty before firing a low and hard to the bottom right hand corner of the net from a tricky angle.

Meath did manage to have the last say of the half with a Jack Regan free that edged them back in front 1-12 to 2-8, but Down would have gone to the dressing-rooms the much happier team.

They suffered a set-back early in the second-half though when Meath sub Nicholas Potterton struck for his team’s second goal.

That electric Adam Gannon was the catalyst as he left two Down defenders in his wake before squaring to Potterton who fired the sliotar to the net.

Down responded impressively with points from Sheehan (2) and Daithi Sands, but then sustained another really damaging blow when Meath scored a third goal.

It was an unfortunate one from a Down point of view as Alan Douglas’ shot for a point came down off a post and right into the path of Gannon who finished clinically again.

Back came Down again with the next three points of the match to reduce the deficit to just two points, 3-13 to 2-14, but that would be as close as they would get.

Meath were totally dominant in the final 20 minutes of the match as substitutes Potterton, Joey Keena, and Callum O’Sullivan gave them an energy surge that Down just couldn’t cope with.

The Royals scored six of the next seven points and then finished the match on an exclamation mark when O’Sullivan blasted the ball to the net for his team's fourth goal.

Scorers for Meath: Adam Gannon 2-3, Jack Regan 0-9 (5f, 2 ’65), Nicholas Potterton 1-1, Callum O’Sullivan 1-0, Barry Slevin 0-2, Alan Douglas 0-1, Damien Healy 0-1, Joey Keena 0-1, Shane Brennan 0-1

Scorers for Down: Paul Sheehan 1-8 (1-0 pen, 6f), Daithi Sands 1-1, Danny toner 0-2, Marc Fisher 0-2 (1f), Eoghan Sands 0-1, Oisin McManus 0-1.

MEATH: Shane McGann; Ger Murphy, Darragh Kelly, Shane Whitty; Shane Brennan, Keith Keoghan, James Kelly; Sean Geraghty, Cathal McCabe; Damien Healy, Barry Slevin, Jack Regan; Cavin McGowan, Alan Douglas, Adam Gannon. Subs: Nicholas Potterton for Barry Slevin (ht), Stephen Morris for James Kelly (50), Joey Keena for Gavin McGowan (50), Callum O’Sullivan for Adam Gannon (61), Colm Ó Mealóid for Alan Douglas (70)

DOWN: Stephen Keith; Tom Murray, Caolan Taggart, Darragh Mallon; Marc Fisher, John McManus, Mathew Conlon; Phelim Savage, Liam Savage; Danny Toner, Paul Sheehan, Tim Prenter; Daithi Sands, Eoghan Sands, Oisin McManus. Subs: Gerard Hughes for Phelim Savage (22), Mark Patterson for Tom Murray (ht), Conor O’Prey for Tim Prenter (42), Ronan Blair for Oisin McManus (61), Ryan McCusker for Paul Sheehan (65)

Ref: Sean Stack (Dublin)