Emma Duggan’s early goal paved the way for last year’s beaten finalists Meath who finally gained promotion to the second tier of the Lidl NFL with a comfortable Division 3 final win over Sligo.

Eamonn Murray’s side were heartbroken after losing the league and TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate deciders last year. But goals from Duggan, Stacey Grimes and Kelsey Nesbitt (two) put Meath into an unassailable lead and they cruised to victory at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones.

Meath beat Sligo 1-13 to 1-3 on 16 February, but the Connacht outfit bounced back since then winning five of their six games. Meath scored first here and restricted their opponents to a single point in the first half.

Vikki Wall had a thunderous shot saved by Sligo goalkeeper Noelle Gormley, however Emma Duggan made no mistake with her finish in the fourth minute.

Shauna Ennis was on hand to give the assist and Gormley couldn’t prevent the goal on this occasion. Niamh Gallogly tagged on a point to extend the lead.

Sligo were able to work the ball into the final third but couldn’t apply the finishing touch. Star forward Katie Walsh sent her first two frees wide.

After Walsh’s second miss Grimes got through to score her first point and Meath were 1-2 to 0-0 in front by the 12th minute. And while Sligo were missing chances the Meath defence were fantastic too.

Meath lost full-forward Nesbitt to a yellow card in the 18th minute when she collided with Gormley, but it took until the 24th minute before Emma Kevany won another Sligo free and Katie Walsh tapped it over from right in front of the goal.

Grimes cancelled that out with a free of her own, and after Monica McGuirk did well to deny Kevany, Meath capitalised with a couple of points from Duggan to shore up a comfortable eight-point lead at half-time.

Grimes scored her goal with less than 15 seconds on the clock in the second half and two minutes later Nesbitt finished another goal past substitute goalkeeper Rachel Quigley.

Meath weren’t done yet and Duggan found Nesbitt for her second goal in less than a minute.

Kevany provided a consolation with Sligo’s first point from play in the 35th minute. Lauren Boles scored a goal seven minutes and Nicola Brennan quickly added a point.

Sligo pushed for a way back into the game with Walsh (two), Lisa Casey and Brennan on target but Meath’s lead was too big and there was no way back.

Meath: M McGuirk; K Newe, S Powderly, S Ennis; S Wall, A Cleary (0-01), N Gallogly; M O’Shaughnessy, O Lally (0-01); V Wall (0-01), E Duggan (1-02), M Thynne (0-01); E White, K Nesbitt (2-00), S Grimes (1-04).

Subs: O Byrne for White (46), O Duff for Newe (55), K Byrne for Lally (55), B Lynch for Nesbitt (57), N Sheridan for S Wall (60).

Sligo: N Gormley; A Morrisroe, M McNamara, J Mulligan; N Brennan (0-02), B Byrne, AM Coleman; R Goodwin, LA Laffey; L Boles (1-00), C Gorman, S Naughton; K Walsh (0-03), E Kevany (0-01), L Casey (0-01).

Subs: R Quigley for Gormley (half-time), S Regan for Kevany (35), G O’Loughlin for Coleman (46), S Reynolds for Laffey (49), J Brehany for Casey (54).

Referee: E Moran (Kerry)