Substitute Dalton McDonagh was Meath's hero as his goal five minutes from time earned the Royal County a hard fought 2-10 to 1-12 victory over already relegated Louth in the Allianz Football League Division Two clash in Drogheda.

Mick O'Dowd's side had got off to a dream start against their neighbours with a goal from Brian McMahon after four minutes.

With the wind at their backs though, Louth responded well with three Brian White points helping them to a narrow one point lead at the break.

The Royal County went ahead shortly after the restart and looked to be in control until a 52nd minute penalty from Shane Lennon put the home side back in the driving seat.

At that point it looked as though the Wee County might hold on for the win but up popped McDonagh late on with a crucial goal that earned Meath the bragging rights over their neighbours.

Derek Crilly had opened the scoring inside the opening minute but Meath, who were playing against a strong breeze in the opening half, responded well with a goal on four minutes.

Just moments after David Larkin had fired wide from point blank range, McMahon breezed his way through the Wee County defence before drilling to the bottom left hand corner.

A subsequent point from David Bray a minute later then had the Royals 1-01 to 0-01 to the good and there were fears at that stage that an already relegated Louth could be set for a long afternoon.

To their credit, Aidan O'Rourke's side upped the ante and were perhaps unlucky not to have a penalty on 10 minutes when White beat goalkeeper Conor McHugh to Paddy Keenan's sideline kick before appearing to be clipped by the netminder. Referee Barry Cassidy showed no interest in it though, as he waved away the home side's appeals.

Despite that, Louth responded well with three points in as many minutes from Andy McDonnell, Crilly and White to get themselves back on level terms at 0-04 to 1-01 after 13 minutes.

Stephen Bray and McMahon twice had Meath in front again as the half wore on but on each occasion White pulled his side level, firstly with a 45 and then with a fine score from wide on the right.

Scores late in the half from substitute Cian Doyle and Declan Byrne had the Wee County briefly two points ahead but a Stephen Bray point with the last kick of the half ensured that the visitors went off trailing by just the minimum at the break on a 0-08 to 1-04 scoreline.

Meath kept that momentum going in the second half with Graham Reilly putting them back on level terms within two minutes of the restart before back-to-back scores from Andrew Tormey put them two points ahead by the 40th minute.

Byrne and Reilly then swapped either scores before Crilly's third point of the afternoon brought the deficit back to the minimum once more on 48 minutes.

Four minutes later Louth were thrown a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty after Doyle was hauled to the ground inside the square by Seamus Kenny. Lennon stepped up to take the kick and made no mistake with a cool finish to the bottom left hand corner to make it 1-10 to 1-08 in the home side's favour.

A free from White briefly extended that lead to three but two McMahon frees at the other end had the deficit back to just one once again by the hour mark.

Meath then hit the front with a second goal on 65 minutes. A huge punt forward from full back Kevin Reilly evaded everyone bar the inrushing McDonagh, who rifled past Neil Gallagher to leave it 2-10 to 1-11.

Lennon did manage to reduce the deficit back to the minimum with a minute to go but as has been the case so often in a disappointing campaign, they came up just short as they have now gone through the entire season without a win.

Louth: N Gallagher; P Reilly, P Rath, D O'Hanlon; J O'Brien, M Fanning, A Reid; P Keenan, A McDonnell (0-02); D Byrne (0-02), D Crilly (0-03), B Duffy; B White (0-04, 1f, 45), S Lennon (1-01, 1-0 penalty), K Rogers.

Subs: C Doyle (0-01) for K Rogers 17; J Stewart for B Duffy, 44; L Shevlin for P Reilly, 60; D Clarke for C Doyle, 66.

Meath: C McHugh; D Keogan, K Reilly, C Young; S Kenny, D Tobin, D Carroll; B Menton, S O'Rourke; D Larkin, A Tormey (0-02), G Reilly (0-02); D Bray (0-01), S Bray (0-02), B McMahon (1-03, 3f).

Subs: P Harnan for D Tobin, 50; D McDonagh (1-00) for D Bray, 50; S Gillespie for G Reilly, 61; P Gilsenan for D Larkin, 61; M O'Sullivan for B McMahon 66.