Antrim 1-20 Meath 2-18
Meath came from nine points behind to lift the Christy Ring Cup with a 2-18 to 1-20 verdict against Antrim, but the Saffrons may appeal after a scoring controversy.
Conor Johnston’s 15th minute goal, along with points from James Connolly, Niall McKenna and Eddie McCloskey, helped Antrim to as 1-10 to 0-7 interval lead, with James Toner converting four Meath frees.
Neil Heffernan and substitute Sean Quigley fired in goals as the Royals performed like men possessed on their way to a famous victory
There was some controversy following the final whistle, with suggestions that the score-line had been miscalculated, and that the game actually ended in a draw and should have gone to extra-time.
The Saffrons eased ahead with scores from Ciaran Clarke, from a ’65, James Connolly and Conor Johnston.
And in the 15th minute, Johnston sent a bullet to the net, after being picked out perfectly by Clarke’s cut-back from the end line.
With Neal McAuley organising his defence with authority and Niall McKenna a key figure around the middle, the Ulster men were comfortably in control, and were afforded the space to create and execute the scores that saw them stretch away to a commanding lead.
McKenna, Connolly and Clarke, with a delightful effort from right on the sideline, were all on target fort a 1-7 to 0-1 lead by the 19th minute.
James Toher converted three Meath frees, and it wasn’t until the 27th minute that they registered their first score from play through Joe Keena.
Having fallen nine points behind, the Royals stepped up the tempo in the closing stages of the first half, with Adam Gannon and Sean Heavey on target.
When Toher knocked over his fourth free, they had reduced the gap to six, 1-10 to 0-7 at the break.
But Meath were right back in contention when Neil Heffernan smashed home a brilliant goal five minutes into the second half.
He picked up a stray Antrim pass to fire an angled shot to the bottom corner of the net past a helpless Chris O’Connell, and the Royals were within reach.
Keith Keoghan floated over a terrific score, and a superb piece of defending from Damian Healy turned defence to attack, with Gannon finishing in style.
When Keena steered over his second, just two points separated the sides ten minutes into the second period.
Antrim stepped up the tempo, and hit four on the spin, including a couple of logn range gems from Eddie McCloskey, opening up a five points lead.
But every Meath player put his body on the line in selfless pursuit of the cause, and the defensive heroics of Healy, Shane Brennan and David Donoghue were matched by the finishing of Joe and Kevin Keena, along with the accurate Gannon.
In the 70th minute, Kevin Keena squared the ball to fellow sub Sean Quigley, who smashed home a goal from 20 metres.
Quigley added a stoppage-time point, and Meath had completed the great escape.
Meath: S McCann, S Geraghty, D Donoghue, R Sherlock, S Brennan, D Healy, K Keoghan (0-02), S Heavey (0-01), S Morris, J Toher (0-05, 5f), J Keena (0-03), A Gannon (0-03), G McGowan, N Heffernan (1-01), S Clynch.
Subs: K Keena (0-01) for Clynch (51), S Whitty for McGowan (54), S Quigley (1-01) for Heffernan (63)
Antrim: C O’Connell, S McCrory, T McCloskey, M Burke, O McFadden, N McAuley, C McKinley (0-01), E Campbell (0-01), N McKenna (0-03), E McCloskey (0-03), C Carson, J Connolly (0-04), C Johnston (1-02), J Dillon (0-01), C Clarke (0-05, 1f, 1 ’65).
Subs: P Burke for M Burke (7), M Dudley for Dillon (47), F Donnelly for McFadden (61)