Meath secured their place in the top two of Division One North with a comfortable seven-point victory over Down.
Played in a middle of a hailstorm in Armagh's Athletic Grounds, the Royals were in control for much of the game but it was two second half goals from the lively Cillian O’Sullivan that put the game to bed.
Down made five changes to the team that started against Mayo last week with goalkeeper Marc Reid coming in for Rory Burns, captain Darren O’Hagan and Burren’s Peter Fegan named in defence and Paul Devlin and Liam Kerr starting in attack.
The Royals made a couple of late changes too as Cathal Hickey replaced Ronan Ryan at corner-back while Bryan Menton instead of Darragh Campion.
Meath were quick off the mark and would have raced further in front had they been a bit more economical in front of the posts. They were temporarily reduced to 14 men when Eoin Harkey was black carded for pulling down Down’s Liam Kerr.
Still, they dominated as Cathal Hickey, Mathew Costello and keeper Andrew Colgan gave Meath a 0-03 to 0-01 lead and they could have scored a goal but Donal Keogan’s shot crashed off the crossbar.
Corey Quinn popped up with Down’s only two points of the first quarter and he also had a chance to bag a goal but Colgan stood his ground to save.
Down’s best period came in the second quarter when they managed to close the gap to two points with Kilcoo’s Paul Devlin and Ryan McElroy as well as Quinn on target, but Meath did enough to stay ahead with the impressive Jordan Morris and fleet-footed O’Sullivan chipping in with scores.
Meath led 0-08 to 0-06 at the break but after Down’s Johnny Flynn was black carded the Royals put Down to the sword. O’Sullivan’s goals came in the 43rd and 47th minute to go 2-11 to 0-07 up and from then onwards the contest was up.
Ethan Devine and Morris kept the Meath scoreboard ticking over while Down replied through Ryan McEvoy, Devlin and Barry O’Hagan, but the game was long up before the final whistle. There was still time for Down’s Gerard McGovern to pick up a red card.
Down: M Reid; P Fegan, G McGovern, P Murdock; P Laverty, D O’Hagan, C Mooney; R McEvoy 0-2 (f), J Flynn; J Guinness, B O’Hagan 0-1 (f), L Kerr; D Guinness, C Quinn 0-4 (1f), P Devlin 0-5 (5f)
Subs: C Doherty for J Guinness (42), P Branagan for Mooney (50), S McConville for Kerr (50), G Collins for D O’Hagan (53), C Gough for Flynn (55), C McCrickard 0-2 (one m) for B O’Hagan (55), D Savage for Quinn (63)
Meath: A Colgan 0-1 ('45'); S Lavin, C McGill, C Hickey 0-1; E Harkin, S McEntee, D Keogan; B Menton, P Harnan; E Devine 0-1 (f), B McMahon 0-1 (m), M Costello 0-1; J Morris 0-7 (3f), T O’Reilly 0-1 (f), C O’Sullivan 2-1.
Subs: R Ryan for Harkin (24), J Wallace for O’Reilly (47), E Wallace 0-1 for Hickey (54), J Scully for McMahon (54), J Conlon for Morris (62), D Campion for O’Sullivan (62), G McCoy for McEntee (70)
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)