Gaelic GamesMatch Report

Meath set up quarter-final clash with Dublin as they breeze past Longford

Concession of 3-12 against a Division Four side will be a concern for Royals boss Colm O’Rourke

Leinster SFC: Longford 3-12 Meath 3-19

The remnants of Storm Kathleen continued to rattle the steel bolts on the heavy wooden doors in the tunnel at Pearse Park as Colm O’Rourke considered Meath’s immediate future.

A seven-point victory over Longford has put his young team on a collision course with Dublin in a Leinster SFC quarter-final at Croke Park next Sunday. It appears another storm’s a comin’.

“It’s early in their development but sometimes you have to get up and put your chest out and put your best foot forward,” said O’Rourke.

“When is the right time to go to Croke Park? There’s none, you have to just get on with it and start winning big games there. That’s what defines you as a man, as a footballer, as a warrior in Meath, is to be able to go to Croke Park and beat Dublin, take them on toe to toe.


“These fellas are as ambitious as any other players, they are just as ambitious as the team I played with or the team Trevor [Giles] played with, they want to go there, they want to do that as well.”

Wanting to do it is one thing, but actualising it is another challenge altogether. No Meath team has managed execute it since 2010.

And while the Royals will be pleased to have scored 2-18 from play in this first round encounter, they should equally be concerned at shipping 3-12 against Division Four opposition in what was a largely lacklustre championship match.

Meath dominated the game, but the day was dominated by the whistling wind that swept incessantly throughout this contest at Pearse Park, watched by a small crowd estimated by Longford GAA officials to be somewhere between 2,500-3,000.

Meath won the toss and played with the gale at their back in the first half. When man of the match James Conlon finished a nice move to the Longford net in the 26th minute, it appeared the game was already up for the home side as it put the Royals 1-10 to 0-3 ahead.

Meath kicked some lovely scores in that first half – with five of their starting six forwards on target before the interval.

Conlon, Jordan Morris and Eoghan Frayne were particularly lively but the score of the game came from midfielder Ronan Jones who judged the wind like a golfer driving off the tee box, his right-footed outside of the boot shot, from around 45 metres, starting well outside the left post before curling in for a beautiful score.

However, Longford got a lifeline just after the half-hour mark when a hanging ball dropped into the hands of Jayson Matthews, and his over the shoulder hooked shot – almost certainly going for a point – instead arched over Meath goalkeeper Seán Brennan and squeezed under the crossbar at the back post, 1-11 to 1-5.

Hagan tagged on a point from the resulting kickout but Meath responded with the last two points of the half, both from Frayne, to lead 1-13 to 1-6 at the turnaround.

Despite playing against the wind on the resumption, O’Rourke’s men registered the first three points of the second half to suck the energy out of Longford’s comeback.

Frayne netted a 63rd-minute penalty after Shane Walsh was fouled but in a madcap ending Longford pillaged two goals, while Cian McBride rose highest to slap home a third for Meath.

It made no material difference to the outcome, but Meath’s generous defending will not have gone unnoticed by Dublin.

“We came down to win and the conditions made it very difficult, but the forward accuracy was very good,” continued O’Rourke.

“We just have to make sure we do not concede three or four goals in the first quarter next week because if we defend like that, the game will be over early.”

For Paddy Christie’s Longford, the Tailteann Cup is their lot now for the summer.

“You would have liked to have played with the wind at the start,” he stated. “You’d like to get a good start and that was difficult. Even from the throw-in, we lost the throw-in and they went up and scored.”

In the 14 years since Meath last beat Dublin in the Leinster SFC, all the Royals have taken away from games with their neighbours is a litany of hammerings.

“I know it is a big ask, it is a young team, but we are improving all the time,” added O’Rourke. “We’re not going to play out of fear, we will play out of confidence.”

LONGFORD: Patrick Collum; Liam Hughes, Oisín O’Toole, Patrick Fox; Bryan Masterson, Ryan Moffett, Dessie Reynolds (0-1); Darren Gallagher (1-1, one free), Paddy Kiernan; Daniel Mimnagh (0-1), Michael Quinn (0-1), Joseph Hagan (0-1); Jayson Matthews (1-3, one free), Cathal McCabe, Daniel Reynolds (0-1).

Subs: Mark Hughes (1-2, two frees) for Masterson (h-t); Dylan Farrell (0-1) for McCabe (46 mins); Ruairí Harkin for Fox (61); Darragh Finlass for L Hughes, Dáire Duggan for Kiernan (both 70).

MEATH: Seán Brennan; Donal Keogan, Adam O’Neill, Harry O’Higgins; Ciarán Caulfield (0-1), Ross Ryan, Seán Coffey; Ronan Jones (0-1), Daithí McGowan; Shane Walsh (0-1), Eoghan Frayne (1-5, one penalty, one free), Cathal Hickey (0-1); Jordan Morris (0-4), Mathew Costello, James Conlon (1-6).

Subs: Jack O’Connor for Costello (h-t); Cian McBride (1-0) for McGowan (50 mins); Darragh Campion for Ross Ryan (54); Keith Curtis for Morris (57); Ronan Ryan for O’Higgins (66).

Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh).

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times