Near rivals Louth and Meath eventually played the Allianz Football League round 6 refixture in the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda on Saturday afternoon, with the visitors claiming a vital win to secure Division 2 safety.
Meath produced a convincing second half performance to secure the precious local bragging rights against Louth side who were seeking their first win in the entire competition.
The home side did give their supporters something to cheer about in the opening period. The sight of the green jersey was enough to raise the Wee County's dreary spirits on home soil. A somewhat apt ending for their desolate campaign, one without any points and a blank win column.
Meath settled quickest and looked to eradicate the doubts that a derby game can provide with a sublimely floated score from midfielder Paddy Kennelly in the opening minute. However it was false dawn as they played into the defensive traps set by Pete McGrath’s side time after half-time.
On top of that indecision, Meath shot seven first half wides and placed four balls into Louth netminder Neil Gallagher's hands.
The narrow dimensions of the Drogheda pitch also contributed to confining Meath and their running game for long periods. Louth were short on confidence and found it in a exhaustive defensive shift.
They went on to shoot three points in-a-row, two William Woods frees and a beautiful long range effort from Declan Byrne had the wee county 3-1 up.
24 minutes after their opening score wing-back James McEntee hugged the touchline and got forward to slot over a much needed point. Ben Brennan levelled after the best move of the game linking up with St. Colmcille's clubmate Graham Reilly.
Deservedly it was Louth who had the final say of the half with Gerard McSorley decisively slotting over before Noel Mooney’s half-time whistle.
After the break, Meath lifted it a couple of notches, scorching five points in rapid succession.
Shane McEntee joined his cousin on the scoresheet, while Donal Lenihan (free), Joey Wallace, Ben Brennan (free) and Cillian O’Sullivan made dividends of the running game that Meath got going in that match-winning third quarter.
Substitute Tadhg McEnaney broke the sequence for Louth, but it was futile resistance as they completely ran out of steam. Graham Reilly was a constant menace and got rewarded with a score along with replacement Thomas O’Reilly to make it 10-5.
McEnaney added another free after Tommy Durnin kicked Louth’s only score from play in the second half before he received a red card at the death for a second yellow.
Lenihan eased the relegation fears with 1-2 as the game drew to a close, his palmed finish to the net was the 13th goal Louth have conceded in seven league games.
With the league programme now finally complete, both sides can thankfully put the competition behind them and focus on the championship in unison.
Louth: Neil Gallagher; Andrew Smyth, Emmet Carolan, Fergal Donohoe; Derek Maguire, Bevan Duffy, Anthony Williams; Tommy Durnin (0-01), Declan Byrne (0-01); Ciaran Downey, Andy McDonnell, Gerard McSorley (0-01); William Woods (0-02, 0-02f), Conor Grimes, Ross Nally.
Subs: Eimhin Keenan for A Williams BC (48) Tadhg McEnaney (0-02, 0-02f) for W Woods (54), Aaron Khan for Andrew Smyth (64), Paul Matthews for Ciaran Downey (64).
Meath: Andrew Colgan; Conor McGill, Brian Power, Mickey Burke; James McEntee (0-01), Donal Keogan; Shane McEntee (0-01); Bryan Menton,Paddy Kennelly (0-01); Eamon Wallace, Ben Brennan(0-02, 0-01f), Graham Reilly (0-01); Cillian O’Sullivan (0-01), Séan Tobin, Donal Lenihan (1-03, 0-03f).
Subs: Joey Wallace (0-01) for E Wallace (9), Thomas O’Reilly for B Brennan (52), Bryan McMahon for S Tobin (68) Brian Conlon for C O’Sullivan (72).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)