Meath 1-17 Longford 1-11
Graham Reilly fired six points from play as Meath claimed their first Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup title since 2006 with a 1-17 to 1-11 win over Longford in Navan.
The Royals claimed victory with a workman-like performance, with a 44th-minute Cillian O’Sullivan goal providing the platform for victory.
Longford dominated possession in the opening stages but struggled for scores, with Michael Newman and Barry McKeon traded early points.
Reilly fired the first of his six points in the eighth minute to hand the hosts a lead they wouldn’t relinquish and they pushed five points clear before a Robbie Smyth goal ensured a 0-10 to 1-03 interval scoreline.
Longford cut the gap to three points on the restart but O’Sullivan’s goal, coupled with scores from Donal Lenihan and substitute Sean Tobin, saw the hosts take the silverware.
After Longford’s semi-final win over Dublin last weekend, hopes were high that the O’Farrell County would take their first O’Byrne Cup title since 2000.
Longford signalled their intent early and dominated the opening exchanges. but crucially struggled for scores.
The visitors fired two early wides, before a James McGivney shot was blocked by Meath captain Donal Keogan in the third minute.
Francis McGee also watched his 45-metre free come off the posts, while in the sixth minute Meath made their first real advances into the Longford half count when Newman was fouled and converted the resulting free.
Barry McKeon equalised but Meath fired six of the next seven points, with Reilly leading the charge and McGee keeping Longford in touch from places balls.
Meath looked good at 0-07 to 0-02 ahead, but Longford continued to press, with McGivney having a second goal-bound shot blocked in the 20th minute.
Longford defended well, with Dermot Brady working hard, while at the opposite end Colm P Smyth cut through for a goal less than two minutes after picking up the first yellow card shown by referee Brendan Cawley.
With a point between the sides after Robbie Smyth's goal, 0-07 to 1-03, Longford had chances to equalise and possibly take the lead, but they were wasteful in front of the posts.
Meath were solid, with Newman firing four first half points from frees, including the last score of the half to ensure a 0-10 to 1-03 interval lead.
Longford rang the changes at half-time. Paul McKeon replaced his brother Barry, while lone goal-scorer against Dublin, Liam Connerton, son of manager Denis, was also introduced.
Both sides had made a sluggish start to the opening half, but the opening stages of the second half were in firm contrast and five scores were produced in a five-minute period after the break.
Longford outscored the hosts by 0-03 to 0-02 during this spell, with McGee opening the second half scoring after just 10 seconds, while substitutes Shane Doyle and Connerton were also on target.
Connerton’s point came as a reply to a Donal Lenihan score in the 40th minute to make it a 0-12 to 1-06 score-line, but the visitors failed to add to their tally for a further 11 minutes as Meath got on top.
The Royals fired 1-02 without reply in a four-minute spell, O’Sullivan registering their only goal of the tie in the 44th minute after good work by Newman, while substitute Sean Tobin was on target with a point, just two minutes after his introduction.
Reilly bagged his sixth point, to open up a 1-14 to 1-06 advantage, but once again Longford worked hard.
Smyth and Michael Brady cut the gap to six points, but Meath kicked on.
Lenihan and Tobin impressed, while substitute Ruairí Ó Coileain was also on target, as Meath moved 1-16 to 1-08 ahead with 13 minutes remaining.
Longford finished strongly with three of the final four points, but Meath had done enough for their captain Donal Keogan to accept the silverware from Leinster GAA Chairman John Horan after the game.
Meath: P O’Rourke; J O’Reilly, D Keogan, D Smyth (0-01); A Douglas, M Burke, C Finn; H Rooney, A Tormey; G Reilly (0-06), P Harnan, C O’Sullivan (1-01); M Newman (0-04, 4f), C Downey, D Lenihan (0-02).
Subs: S Tobin (0-02) for Tormey (43); P Geraghty for Douglas (53); R Ó Coileain (0-01) for Downey (56); M Battersby for Reilly (67); N Judge for Geraghty (67); D Rowe for Lenihan (67).
Longford: P Collum; D Masterson, B Gilleran, C P Smyth; F Battrim, R Smyth (1-1), A Dalton; M Brady (0-01), B Farrell; M Hughes, J McGivney, D Gallagher; B McKeon (0-01), F McGee (0-06, 3f, 1 45), D Brady.
Subs: D McElligott for Dalton (22); S Doyle (0-01) for Farrell (23); L Connerton (0-01) for Masterson (HT); P McKeon for B McKeon (HT); B Kavanagh for Gallagher (40); P McGee for D Brady (62);
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)