Galway 0-17 Meath 0-8
Ten minutes into this game you just knew it was going to be Galway’s day. Relishing the underdog tag, John O’Mahony’s men launched themselves head first into this contest dishing out the cruelest of beatings to a bewildered Meath side.
Those affiliated with the ‘old guard’ may feel aggrieved that Galway stole through the ‘back door’ to clip Meath’s wings after such a resounding defeat of Kerry in the semi-final three weeks ago. However, based on their dismal second half performance, Meath had absolutely no right to win this game.
Despite a frantic start that saw both sides trade points tit for tat, neither appeared comfortable in front of the posts. Galway dominated at every position throughout the half but lacked sparkle and penetration up front. Padraig Joyce, who majestically turned the second half single handedly, was disappointing to say the least in the opening 35 minutes.
Kevin Walsh and Michael Donnellan controlled and patrolled midfield with such authority that even the immense figure of John McDermott failed to etch any impression on the game. Meath’s inspirational figures, - Giles, Geraghty, Murphy - who have so often in the past transformed seemingly doomed scorelines into winning ones, were never in the game.
Meath were off to a fine start after Ray Magee pointed from a free following a foul on Ollie Murphy. Galway were slower into their stride but soon found a rhythm with scores from Donnellan and the useful Joe Bergin. After a lively start the game descended to a scrappy period that saw Nigel Nestor, Ja Fallon and Padraig Joyce yellow carded.
Wayward shooting from the Galway forwards meant the Tribesmen took to the break level with their opponents on a 0-6 to 0-6 scoreline. After the break Galway showed way more urgency and soon settled into a comfortable tempo.
From the throw-in, a clever ball was pumped in over the head of Meath full back Darren Fay. Padraig Joyce was first to react and was clear in on goal. However, he ballooned his effort over the bar letting Meath off the hook - temporarily.
From that point on Joyce rediscovered his confidence and went on to provide Galway with their most productive attacking outlet. While slotting away close range frees with consummate ease, Joyce was also at hand to drill home beautiful points from a variety of ranges and angles.
Ten minutes after the restart Meath were dealt a crushing blow when corner forward Ollie Murphy - already struggling against the ruthless Galway full back line - was forced to retire with a hand injury. Sean Boylan replaced him with Paddy Reynolds.
Then, six minutes later, just to intensify Boylan’s growing headache Nigel Nestor received his second yellow card for dragging Paul Clancy to the ground. With Meath reduced to 14 men, Galway slowly began to turn the screw.
A rare Meath venture into Galway territory resulted in a penalty when referee Michael Collins adjudged that John McDermott had been fouled in the area. Trevor Giles stepped up but dragged his attempt wide of the left post and with it Meath’s chances of rescuing the game.
There was no way back for Boylan’s men and even their supporters sensed it, leaving the ground in droves with five minutes remaining. Joyce rattled over another brace and combined with Paul Clancy and Declan Meehan’s scores wrapped up a wonderful season for last year’s beaten finalists.