Down 0-14 Meath 2-15
Two second half goals in a four-minute spell from Cillian O’Sullivan secured Meath’s win over Down and ensured a top two finish for the Royals in Division Two North of the Allianz National Football League.
Down, on the other hand, will face a relegation play-off, with next week's game against Westmeath to decide who finishes third and fourth while Meath take on Mayo for the top spot in the group.
Down made five changes to the team that started against Mayo last week with goalkeeper Marc Reid coming in for Rory Burns, while captain Darren O’Hagan and Burren’s Peter Fegan started in defence and Paul Devlin and Liam Kerr made the attack. Meath made a couple of late changes to as Cathal Hickey replaced Ronan Ryan at corner back while Bryan Menton started with Darragh Campion moving to the bench.
Meath were dominant throughout, their experience in Division Two was evident against a team recently promoted from Division Three.
Hickey, Jordan Morris, Mathew Costello, keeper Andrew Colgan (free) and O’Sullivan scored for Meath while Cory Quinn, Kilcoo duo Paul Devlin and Ryan McElroy replied for Down to give the Royals a 0-8 to 0-6 lead.
But Down’s Johnny Flynn picked up a black card and Meath used their numerical advantage with two counterattacks, O’Sullivan using his pace to plunder two fine goals to put the game beyond Down’s reach.
Devlin, Barry O’Hagan and substitute Conor McCrickard replied for Down and team-mate Gerard McGovern received a late red card as Meath comfortably wrapped up victory.
Down: M Reid; P Fegan, G McGovern, P Murdock; P Laverty, D O'Hagan, C Mooney; R McEvoy (0-2, 1 free), J Flynn; J Guinness, B O'Hagan, L Kerr; D Guinness, C Quinn (0-4, 1 free), P Devlin (0-5, 5 frees).
Subs: C Doherty for J Guinness (42), P Branagan for Mooney (50), S McConville for Kerr (50), G Collins for D O'Hagan (53), C Gough for Flynn (55), C McCrickard (0-2, 1m) for B O'Hagan (0-1, 1 free) (55), D Savage for Quinn (63).
Meath: A Colgan (0-1, 1 '45); S Lavin, C McGill, C Hickey (0-1); E Harkin, S McEntee, D Keogan; B Menton, P Harnan; E Devine (0-1, 1 free), B McMahon (0-1, 1m), M Costello (0-1); J Morris (0-7, 3 frees), T O'Reilly (0-1, 1 free), C O'Sullivan (2-1).
Subs: R Ryan for Harkin (24), J Wallace for O'Reilly (47), E Wallace (0-1) for Hickey (54), J Scully for McMahon (54), J Conlon for Morris (62), D Campion for O'Sullivan (62), G McCoy for McEntee (70).
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)