Ultimate test for Meath in cup defence
HOLDERS Meath safely negotiated their passage to the last four of the O’Byrne Cup in this winnertake-all clash at St Patrick’s Park, Enniscorthy, on Saturday.
The prize for the Royals is a semi-final meeting with All-Ireland champions Dublin in Parnell Park and that tie - the second between them in a matter of weeks - will be a further step up in class as the Royals continue preparations for their opening-round NFL Division 2 clash with Tipperary on the last Sunday of the month.
Wexford had won their opening two games of the pre-season tournament but never looked convincing enough to make it a hat-trick of victories against the much livelier visitors who were on the front foot for most of the 70 minutes.
The hosts enjoyed an abundance of possession around the midfield area, but their attack failed to make sufficient inroads against a solid Meath rearguard.
Donal Keogan, Niall Kane and Seamus Lavin all excelled in defence, with Simonstown’s Kane particularly impressive and also accounting for his side’s opening two points.
Meath were also much sharper in attack throughout, with all of their scores apart from two points coming from open play. Their goal came courtesy of substitute Sean Tobin with a little over 15 minutes remaining, leaving them in front by 1-15 to 0-9 and out of sight.
James McEntee, Niall Hickey and Gavin McCoy were all involved before Tobin rifled to the roof of the net.
The Royals did create three other goal opportunities but were unable to take any of them. Mickey Newman was denied by a fine save from Wexford keeper Matt Doyle on nine minutes, but Ben Brennan and Tobin failed to hit the target when presented with opportunities to add to Meath’s tally.
Andy McEntee’s side were never headed at any stage, although Wexford thought they had snatched the lead when John Tubritt produced a great finish to the net on 26 minutes, but the effort was disallowed for a fourth hand-pass in the build-up.
Meath led 0-4 to 0-3 at the time and while Wexford were level at 0-5 apiece it was the visitors who finished the half with a flourish to be in front 0-9 to 0-5 at the break.
Mickey Newman (two), Adam Flanagan and Darragh Campion
Meath Wexford 1-20 1-13
hit the last four scores of that opening half.
The lead stretched out to six in the early stages of the second period following further scores from the impressive Thomas O’Reilly, Campion and Newman as Wexford tallied four wides before sub Cathal Devereux had them off the mark.
Devereux improved matters for Wexford in attack, but it was the Meath men who continued to hold the upperhand. Graham Reilly, Newman and O’Reilly added to the Meath tally as they led 0-15 to 0-9 with 15 minutes remaining.
Tobin’s goal put the game out of reach of the home side and the Simonstown man had an even better chance of a second goal when straight through, but he failed to hit the target.
John Tubritt and Eoghan Nolan for the home side and O’Reilly and Mickey Burke exchanged points before scores from Bryan Menton and Devereux left it 1-18 to 0-12 on 65 minutes.
Alan Nolan went close to finding the net for Wexford before Donal Shanley eventually grabbed a consolation goal after intercepting a Barry Dardis short kickout and then chipping the stranded keeper.
Meath, however, finished the the last two points of the game from James McEntee and a Tobin free. MEATH: WEXFORD: REF:
Meath goalkeeper Barry Dardis playing his first-ever match as a goalkeeper at St Patrick’s Park.
St Colmcille’s clubman Ben Brennan drives f