By Seamus Hayes

Meath moved a step closer to division 1 football in 2020 when they turned in a strong second half performance to overcome Clare at Cusack park in Ennis this afternoon.

It was a result that didn’t seem likely at half time when they were a little fortunate to lead by the minimum margin after playing with the aid of a strong wind.

Clare enjoyed the better of the opening half exchanges but the Royal county side took over in the second half when they confined the home side to just three points, all of which came from frees.

This win leaves Meath at the top of the league table, two points clear of Donegal and Fermanagh, who they play next week, and while it is still mathematically possible for them to lose out on promotion, it will be a big surprise given their scoring difference if such an outcome materialised.

They made the better start in this afternoon’s contest and had 0-4 on the scoreboard after just six minutes. A further two minutes elapsed before Clare opened their account but from here on the home side dominated the opening half.

Clare took the lead six minutes from the half time whistle when Sean O’Donoghue found the net after being put through by Jamie Malone.

Meath rallied and landed the last two points of the half to lead by one, 0-8 to 1-4, at the interval.

With the advantage of a strong wind to come, Clare followers were confident of achieving victory heading into the second half. However, Meath had other ideas and they stepped up their performance considerably when play resumed.

The sides exchanged points in the opening five minutes but a further ten minutes elapsed before the next score which was a crucial one.

The introduction of Graham Reilly certainly made a difference. Within a minute of his arrival he had picked up a yellow card and scored his side’s goal, a score that rocked Clare’s challenge.

They followed the goal with three unanswered points to open a seven point lead. Clare battled on and had the last two points of the tie, scores that could yet prove crucial in their battle to avoid the drop to division 3.

Meath:  A.Congan; S. Lavin, C. McGill, R. Ryan; J. Mc Entee, D. Keogan, S. Gallagher;B. Menton, S. McEntee; C. O’Sullivan (0-3), E. Devine, D. Campion (0-1); B. McMahon, M. Newman (0-4, f) T. O’Reilly (0-2).

Subs: B. Dardis (0-1) for S. McEntee (inj 10 mins); A. Flanagan for Devine; G. Reilly (1-0) for Campion; P. Harnan for McMahon; E. Lynch for O’Sullivan;

Clare: E.Tubridy; K. Harnett, C. Brennan, G. Kelly; S. O’Donoghue (1-0), A. Fitzgerald, D. Ryan; G Brennan, C. O’Connor; K.Malone, C. Cleary (0-5, frees), J. Malone; C. O’Dea, D. Tubridy (0-1, f), G. Cooney (0-1);

Subs: K. Sexton for K. Malone; S. Collins for Ryan; E, Courtney for Tubridy;

Referee: B. Tiernan, Dublin