Down 1-13 Meath 0-14

Down ended a long losing sequence with a 1-13 to 0-14 win over Meath at Pairc Esler in Division 2 of the Allianz Football League.

Pressure had been growing on manager Eamonn Burns and his team, but they finally found a way to win after losing 14 games on the spin in league and championship.

Meath’s record against Ulster sides is showing no signs of improving, and while they could well have taken something from this game, it has been a disappointing start for new boss Andy McEntee, who has managed just one wins from three outings in the competition.  

Joe Murphy punched in a goal after two minutes and three Darragh O’Hanlon points helped keep Down in front.

Meath had three Donal Lenihan scores, but they trailed by 1-08 to 0-06 at the break.

Lenihan kept the Royals in touch from frees, but the Mourne men kept their noses in front to the finish, with scores from Kevin McKernan, Conbaill McGovern, Jerome Johnston and O’Hanlon.

Down got off to a wonderful start, when Joe Murphy punched past a static Paddy O’Rourke from Darragh O’Hanlon’s free for a goal inside the opening two minutes.

But Brian Sheridan began to cause trouble as target man, first laying off to Donal Lenihan for Meath’s opener, before winning the free that Lenihan converted.

Barry O’Hagan fired over a Mourne point, but Meath midfielder Bryan Menton began to make an impact in the engine-room, with centre-back Brian Power giving them impetus from deep.

Lenihan’s second free narrowed the gap to a point, but Down carved another goal chance, this time for O’Hagan, whose close-range effort was deflected over by O’Rourke.

Unforced errors on both sides made for a scrappy spell, and a stray Meath clearance gifted a point to Conor Maginn, either side of two Darragh O’Hanlon frees, as they moved into a 1-05 to 0-04 lead after 27 minutes.

Corner-back Donal Keogan gave Meath their first point from play in almost half an hour, and while Graham Reilly added another, they trailed at the break by 1-08 to 0-06

Toher thumped over a spectacular score to narrow the gap, and as both sides struggled to impose themselves as a potent attacking force, Down centre-back Conaill McGovern traded scores with Lenihan.

Goalkeeper O’Rourke spread himself to deny Barry O’Hagan, but Down kept the pressure on and pushed further ahead through O’Hanlon and Kevin McKernan

An injection of fresh legs off the bench promised to revive Meath fortunes, with substitute Bryan McMahon clipping over a tidy score, and two more Lenmihan frees kept them very much alive.

But Down kept their opponents at arm’s length with scores from Jerome Johnston and Kevin McKernan.

However, they had to endure a nervous finish. A goal behind deep into injury-time, Lenihan went for the net from a free, and his screamer was deflected over the bar by Gerard McGovern.

Down: M Reid; R McAleenan, G McGovern, D O’Hagan; D O’Hanlon (0-04, 3f), C McGovern (0-01), C Mooney; P Turley, A Carr (0-01); K McKernan (0-02), C Maginn (0-01), J Murphy (1-00); S Millar, B O’Hagan (0-02), R Johnston (0-01)

Subs: B McArdle for C McGovern (45), J Johnston (0-01) for O’Hagan (49), M Poland for Mooney (65), P Devlin for R Johnston (68)

Meath: P O’Rourke, D Keogan (0-01), C McGill, R O Coileain; W Carry, B Power, S McEntee; B Menton, J Toher (0-02, 1f); A Forde, C O’Sullivan, C O’Brien; G Reilly (0-02), B Sheridan, D Lenihan (0-08, 7f)

Subs: B McMahon (0-01) for O’Sullivan (h-t), E Wallace for O’Brien (47), J Wallace for Forde (58), D Toner for McEntee (61), S Tobin for Sheridan (68)

Referee: M McNally (Monaghan)