Down suffered the heartbreak of defeat in the All-Ireland Premier Junior camogie final in association with RTÉ Sport for the second time in 12 months, as Meath just held the upper hand at Croke Park.
John Davis’s charges were deserved 1-11 to 1-09 winners but had to dig deep to overcome a resolute opposition driven on by the memory of last year’s narrow loss to Waterford.
Player of the match Sinéad Hackett top-scored for the Royals with 1-02.
Down did very well to keep themselves in contention after conceding a third minute goal to Hackett, who bundled the sliotar over the line after a Jane Dolan free had dropped short.
Fionnuala Carr had opened the scoring for the Mourne girls with a free from 70m, having been fouled after catching Caitriona McCrickard’s puck-out.
Her sister, Sara-Louise Carr, responded to the goal with a good score but Meath put the foot down to open up a four-point gap courtesy of scores from Aileen Donnelly, Hackett’s brilliant effort over her right shoulder, and a Dolan free.
Down showed their character though when hitting back with their own run of three points, kick-started by Sara-Louise Carr. She finished well after a 25 metre dash and Fionnuala landed points from a 45 and free to reduce the margin to the minimum.
The 45 came as a result of a deflection on a Catherine McGourty ground shot that seemed destined for the Meath net but the Royals had a similar opportunity soon afterwards, when Donnelly doubled on a breaking ball but sent the sliotar just wide.
It was 1-05 to 0-06 at half time but Sara-Louise Carr ended another strong run from the left by crashing a powerful shot beyond Emily Mangan five minutes after the resumption to put Down ahead.
Meath took over around the middle though and landed five of the next six points to open up a three-point advantage.
Nicola Braniff and Fionnuala reduced the margin to the minimum with two minutes of injury time still remaining but it was Dolan who had the last word from a placed ball.
Scorers – Meath: S Hackett 1-02; A Donnelly, J Dolan 0-03(2fs) each; K Troy, A Maguire, L Oakes 0-01 each
Down: F Carr 0-06 (5fs, 1 45); SL Carr 1-02; N Braniff 0-01
Meath: E Mangan; H Geraghty, C Coffey, F O’Neill; L Donoghue, A Thompson, A Keogh; AM Fagan, K Troy; E Guy, J Dolan, A Donnelly; A Maguire, S Hackett, K Hackett. Subs: L Oakes for Guy (37); E Lynch for Maguire (53)
Down: C McCrickard; K Tinnelly, G O’Higgins, C McGovern; C Rocks, L McCrickard, E McCormick; P Gribben, M McNally; L McPolin, SL Carr, F Carr; N Mallon, L Hughes, C McGourty. Subs: K McMullan for Mallon inj (21); O Maginn for McNally (30+1); K O’Higgins for Hughes (44); N Braniff for McPolin (57)
Referee: R McNicholas (Galway)