Meath end 29-year wait as they pip Tyrone to take All-Ireland minor football crown

Shaun Leonard’s late point seals victory for Royal County in tight contest

Meath players celebrate their win over Tyrone in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor final at  Croke Park. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Meath players celebrate their win over Tyrone in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Meath 1-12 Tyrone 1-11

Meath manager Cathal Ó Bric made the point in pre-match interviews that if Tyrone were going to win the Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor football final, they would have to do it the hard way.

The Red Hands had breezed through Ulster with 53 points to spare and crushed Cork last weekend, marking them out as clear favourites.

Yet, just as Ó Bric predicted, they found the Royal County an entirely different proposition and a carefully crafted Meath game plan ultimately paid off with the winning point deep into stoppage time to secure the county’s first title since 1992.

In truth, it could have gone either way as the game was level on eight occasions and Tyrone will kick themselves that they struck so many wides, 14 in total and four-in-a-row at one stage late on when the game was there for the taking.

Meath’s Oisín Ó Murchú celebrates scoring a goal during the minor football final at Croke Park. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Meath’s Oisín Ó Murchú celebrates scoring a goal during the minor football final at Croke Park. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

But it was impressive all the same from a dogged Meath side that led at half-time and at the second water break and which had the composure to work a 64th-minute ball out to Shaun Leonard to kick what proved to be the winning point.

Conor Owens, Tyrone’s super-sub throughout the championship, had a chance to force extra-time from a 66th-minute free about 25 metres out but couldn’t convert.

Aside from Leonard, Oisín Ó Murchú had a strong game for Meath, kicking 1-2 a week after being sent off in the All-Ireland semi-final win over Sligo.

Captain Liam Kelly was named man-of-the-match while Conor Ennis, who burst upfield to create that late score for Leonard, Tomás Corbett and midfielder Jack Kinlough all had strong games too.

Meath’s Rian McConnell and Danny Ehichoya celebrate the win over Tyrone. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Meath’s Rian McConnell and Danny Ehichoya celebrate the win over Tyrone. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

TV replays picked up Ennis for a double hop during his late solo run though it wasn’t spotted by referee Derek O’Mahoney in real time.

Tyrone may be frustrated by that, though they only had to themselves to blame for all the wides they kicked, nine in the second-half alone.

They got a decent start and led 1-3 to 0-2 following a goal from captain Cormac Devlin, while Ó Murchú’s 13th-minute goal for Meath helped restore parity at 1-4 apiece.

Meath took a 1-7 to 1-6 lead into the interval and while they stretched the gap to three at the end of the third quarter, three late Tyrone points in a row cancelled the deficit.

The Red Hands should have pushed ahead but wides cost them dearly and Leonard punished them with that terrific winner for Meath.

MEATH: O McDermott (0-2, two 45s); C Ennis, T Corbett, L Kelly; S O’Hare, J O’Regan, K Smyth; P Wilson, J Kinlough (0-1); S Leonard (0-2), S Emmanuel (0-1), C McWeeney (0-1); C Finlay, O O Murchu (1-2), H Corcoran (0-3, one free).

Subs: A Moore for McWeeney (53 mins); J Foley for Corcoran (58); B O’Halloran for Kelly (61).

TYRONE: N Robinson; M Mallon, C Kelly, M Rafferty; H Cunningham (0-1, free), R Fox, S O’Hare; R Donnelly, R McHugh (0-2); G Potter, R Strain, P McCann; R Cassidy (0-3, two frees), C Devlin (1-1), E McElholm (0-2).

Subs: C Owens (0-2, two frees) for Potter (h/t), J Martin for Donnelly (32-f/t, blood), N Grimes for McCann (47), B Hampsey for McHugh (57-59, blood), R Molloy for Cunningham (57).

Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).

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