Meath keeper Adam McDermott was the saviour as his side held out for a narrow win over Longford in Round 2 of the Leinster Minor Football League at Devine Park, Edgeworthstown on Saturday last.
Four points down at the break, 1-6 to 0-5, the home county staged a determined comeback in the second half and almost won the match when Ronan Healy had a glorious goal chance in the 59th minute, only to be denied by McDermott who produced a terrific point-blank stop to keep his net intact with time running out.
Just two points separated the sides when the final whistle was eventually blown, signalling the end of Longford’s interest in the league with nothing but pride at stake when they play away to Louth in the remaining group fixture on Saturday next.
But at least it was an encouraging performance as the preparations continue for the Leinster Minor Championship Round 1 clash against Wicklow in Aughrim on Saturday April 17th.
Both the Longford and Meath management teams used the game in Edgeworthstown to try out different players but there is no doubting the quality of Mullinalaghta marksman Jayson Matthews, who was most impressive in firing over a total of seven points (3 frees).
Matthews was particularly prominent in the first half, accounting for Longford’s entire tally, but Meath deserved to be leading by 1-6 to 0-5 at the break with the decisive goal coming from corner-forward James Conlon in the 24th minute.
Four of their points were from frees converted by Tomas O’Reilly and Conlon went close to finding the net again in stoppage time when Longford keeper Declan McKenna got a vital touch to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
There was then a goal chance for the home side right at the start of the second half but Cian Finnan was denied as the danger was cleared. Moments later, Jayson Matthews shot over the bar again before Meath proceeded to enjoy a dominant spell.
The visitors almost scored a second goal when Declan McKenna pulled off a great save to keep out a close range shot from Caolach Halligan and other chances were squandered by Meath who should really have put the issue beyond all doubt.
Completely against the run of play, Jayson Matthews fired over his seventh point for Longford in the 43rd minute and further scores followed from Ronan Healy (a well struck ‘45) and Conor Berry, the latter on target with a fine strike in the 54th minute to close the gap to the minimum of margins, 1-7 to 0-9.
In between this promising spell, Meath managed a point from Shane Walsh and the pressure was eased somewhat when they scored again in the 57th minute through substitute Padraig McGowan.
Then came that clear-cut goal chance for Longford to snatch victory, following a slick move, but Meath keeper McDermott came to the rescue in blocking the shot from Ronan Healy.
LONGFORD: Declan McKenna (Clonguish); James Moran (Young Grattans), Liam Barry (Longford Slashers), Ronan Sheahan (Longford Slashers); Kevin Sorohan (Rathcline), Cian Brady (Abbeylara), Ryan Moffett (Killoe); Conor Berry (Abbeylara, 0-1), Russell Brady (Abbeylara); Peter Lynn (Young Grattans), Joe Heaney (Sean Connolly’s), Cian Finnan (Longford Slashers); Darragh Doherty (Mostrim), Jayson Matthews (Mullinalaghta, 0-7, three from frees), Colin Farrell (Clonguish).
Subs:- Neil Devlin (Clonguish) for R Sheahan (26 mins); Ronan Healy (Cashel, 0-1, ‘45) for C Farrell (injured, 35 mins); Shane Thompson (Killoe) for J Heaney (39 mins); Cillian Lee (Killashee) for R Brady (injured, 49 mins); Rory Hawkins (Colmcille) for C Finnan (49 mins).
MEATH: Adam McDermott; Daniel McMahon, Daniel O’Neill, Kashif Ali; Ronan Ryan, Eanna Kelly Lynch, Robin Clarke; Dylan Flanagan, Sean Clare; Caolach Halligan (0-1), David McEntee (0-1, free), John Wilson; Shane Walsh (0-1), Tomas O’Reilly (0-4, all from frees), James Conlon (1-0).
Subs used:- Ronan Jones, Sean Smyth. Padraig McGowan (0-1), Tomas McGuinness and Cathal Bermingham.
Referee: David Hickey