Tyrone 2-14 Meath 0-19 (after extra-time)
An emotional Meath manager Andy McEntee questioned why players put their lives on hold to play inter-county football after his side made a controversial exit from the All-Ireland qualifiers at Páirc Tailteann on Saturday.
The Royals seemed set for a shock win over last year's All-Ireland semi-finalists Tyrone when Ben Brennan kicked them ahead from a free deep into injury time. But with the clock past the allotted five minutes of added time Cathal McShane showed nerves of steel to fire over an equalising point to leave it 1-11 to 0-14 and send the game to extra-time.
Then in the final moments of what was an absorbing contest in extra-time Meath, trailing by a point, were denied what looked like legitimate claims for a free and an opportunity for the equaliser after James McEntee went down under a challenge. The home side also had strong claims for a penalty turned away, referee Paddy Neilan awarding a free instead.
At the final whistle the referee received a Garda escort from the pitch as players and management vented their frustrations at the Roscommon official.
“You put your life on hold and then everything finishes like that,”McEntee fumed. “It’s one of the reasons why fellas go off to America. It’s one of the reasons why fellas don’t declare for inter-county football. You’ve got to get the basics right. Refereeing is a fairly basic requirement.
“Here we are again talking about referees deciding games like that and everybody walks away. The same happened in the hurling last weekend. And everyone is concerned about a speck of blood on Donal Lenihan’s jersey and he has to come off the pitch for that, and we can’t get things like that decision at end right. It’s very hard to take.”
Regarding the penalty call following a foul on Cillian O'Sullivan, McEntee added: "He's standing, what, less than 10 yards away from Cillian O'Sullivan who ends up inside the small square. I've seen it on the camera, he ends up inside the small square, and he gives a free? I mean he played five minutes of injury time, they score in five minutes and 30 odd seconds.
“Players put their lives on hold and then the whole thing gets decided by a couple of very poor decisions. That’s the hard bit. Players miss a free or they drop a ball or they foul somebody, they pay the price out there. What’s the price for what went on out there today?”
Tyrone led 1-6 to 0-7 at the end of the opening half with Connor McAliskey accounting for 1-5 of their tally. Meath responded to the challenge in the second half and the sides were level on six occasions. The home side led for the first time when Brennan converted a free to leave it 0-12 to 1-8 on 52 minutes.
Mickey Harte’s side had Tiernan McCann sent off for a straight red card offence following an off the ball incident involving Brennan on 66 minutes. Brennan then received his marching orders on receipt of a second yellow card minutes later.
The game was decided in the opening half of extra-time as Tyrone outscored their opponents 1-3 to 0-2 to lead 2-14 to 0-16 as the teams changed ends for the final time. That decisive goal came from substitute Harry Loughran.
Meath fought courageously to extend their stay in the championship in the final 10 minutes with points from Thomas O'Reilly, Shane Glynn and a Donal Lenihan free but their revival came up marginally short.
Meath: A Colgan; S Gallagher, C McGill, S Lavin; J McEntee (0-2), S Curran, D Keogan (0-1); B Menton, A Flanagan; M Burke (0-1), B Brennan (0-6, 0-3 frees), C O'Sullivan (0-2); G Reilly, D Lenihan (0-4, 4 frees), J Wallace (0-1). Subs: T O'Reilly (0-1) for Lenihan (54), E Wallace for Burke (56), B McMahon for J Wallace (58), C O'Brien for Brennan (extra-time), S Glynn (0-1) for Gallagher (75), D O'Neill for McGill (80), L for Lavin (83).
Tyrone: M O'Neill; HP McGeary, R McNamee, P Hampsey; T McCann, M McKernan (0-1), F Burns (0-2); C Cavanagh, P McNulty; M Donnelly, N Sludden (0-1), C Meyler; C McShane (0-2), R Donnelly, C McAliskey (1-8, 0-6 frees). Subs: K McGeary for Meyler (48 mins), R Brennan for HP McGeary (48), H Loughran (1-0) for R Donnelly (52), D McClure for McNulty (61), R McNabb for McNamee (67), R O'Neill for McCann (extra-time), C Meyler for McKernan (78), C McCann for McShane (86).
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).
First half: 0-7
Second half: 0-7
First half ET: 0-2
Second half ET: 0-3
From play: 0-12
Frees conceded: 30
Yellow cards: 8
Red cards: 1
Black cards: 1
First half: 1-6
Second half: 0-5
First half ET: 1-3
Second half ET: 0-0
From play: 2-8
Frees conceded: 19
Yellow cards: 1
Red cards: 1
Black cards: 0