Inpho Banty McEnaney: winning ways
As it happened: Meath v Wicklow, Leinster Football Championship First Round
Meath get over a slow start to comfortably brush aside a fading challenge of Wicklow.

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Full-time Meath 0-16 Wicklow 0-11

Welcome to Dr Cullen Park. According to my phone, it’s 25 degrees here in Carlow, according to the heat coming off my phone it’s a lot hotter. Great for championship, not so great for journalists who are piled in here on pews behind double glazing. This may have been used as a punishment in Vietnam! But let’s not complain because there are few better grounds in terms of atmosphere and what a game we have on our hands.

Teams first as the ground slowly fills and they are as follows.

MEATH D Gallagher; M Burke, K Reilly, S McAnarney; D Tobin, B Menton, S Kenny; C Gillespie, B Meade; A Forde, M Collins, G Reilly; B Farrell, J Sheridan, C Ward

WICKLOW J Flynn; C Hyland, A McLoughlin, A Byrne; D Healy, M McLoughlin, S Kelly; J Stafford, R Finn; L Glynn, D O’Sullivan, Darren Hayden; T Hannon, S Furlong, J McGrath

Expect Graeme Reilly to move out to midfield and we think that area is the key here. Meath have the better forwards (not great pace but expect a lot of high ball in) and a better full-back but they could be cleaned out by James Stafford and Rory Finn. If Wicklow can get enough ball, they’ll win. But if it turns into breaking ball, Seamus Kenny could dominate.

We’ll let you read away on that and we’ll be back in 15 minutes with all the action and analysis. As for now, the laptop needs to be taken out of the sunlight.

According to officials at the gates, they were hoping for 6,000 here, and they aren’t far off that. But here’s the key when it comes to venues, Dr Cullen Park seems relatively full and there’s a great buzz around the place. That will lift the game. Playing matches like this in Croke Park, as is often done, just doesn’t work.

Wicklow are out for their warm-up as we are just over 10 minutes away from throw-in. For the record, we think Meath will have too much, and win with a few to spare.

One change on the Wicklow team. Stephen Byrne replaces Michael McLoughlin at centre-back. Meath now out for their warm-up.

National Anthem underway. Padraig Hughes from Armagh is our referee.

1 minute, Meath 0-0 Wicklow 0-1: Great start from Wicklow as John McGrath sells a lovely dummy and chops a shot over from distance.

4 minutes, Meath 0-0 Wicklow 0-2:  Slight breeze at the back of Wicklow as it takes hold of a long-distance Tony Hannon shot but it drifts wide. But Wicklow make amends as James Stafford finds Seanie Furlong with a 50-yard pass. The lay off is to John McGrath who gets his second.

4 minutes, Meath 0-0 Wicklow 0-4: Tony Hannon puts Wicklow further in front after Seamus Kenny overcarries. Oddly Meath have started okay in midfield but they are turning over a lot of ball in open play. Not the start they wanted, as Wicklow have their tails up, win another free and from a more difficult angle Hannon points his second dead ball.

9 minutes, Meath 0-0 Wicklow 0-4: Worse news for Meath as Seamus Kenny hasn’t shaken off a knee injury. Donal Keoghan is on for him.

11 minutes, Meath 0-0 Wicklow 0-4: Their is definitely a strong breeze favouring Wicklow and they need to push on. They may be thanking John Flynn after a marvellous save too. Graeme Reilly’s shot comes down off the post, it drops to Joe Sheridan, who six yards out has an effort tipped onto the post.

14 minutes, Meath 0-0 Wicklow 0-5: Kevin Reilly kicks a sideline ball straight into the chest of Stephen Byrne  who swings it over.

17 minutes, Meath 0-2 Wicklow 0-5: It’s taken nearly a quarter of the game for Meath to get on the board through Brian Farrell but while they are breaking from midfield they continue to turn over possession.  If they can keep it they can get back into this and they do just that. Joe Sheridan doubles his side’s tally.

21 minutes, Meath 0-2 Wicklow 0-7: Tony Hannon isn’t put off by the blast of an air horn as he drills a 45 just inside the post. Kevin Reilly is slowly getting the better of Seanie Furlong though as Wicklow persist with the very long ball in on top of the full-forward. But others in that Meath defence are coming to Wicklow’s help. A ball is picked up off the ground 21 yards out. Hannon won’t miss that.

26 minutes, Meath 0-4 Wicklow 0-7: Mark Collins gets on the board but it took a lot of passing. It’s obviously a ploy to take their half-forward line way out the field but there’s no great movement with Sheridan and Farrell inside making this easier on the Wicklow defence than it should be. For the most part that is. This time Sheridan does get free and finds Farrell for a great score.

30 minutes, Meath 0-5 Wicklow 0-7: Meath slowly finding a way back and it’s no surprise it’s happening since Joe Sheridan has started to find space. Again he gets free and gets a third assist. Farrell is the finisher and Wicklow now need to switch their match-ups at the back and get Ciaran Hyland into it. They do just that as Hyland heads for Farrell’s footsteps. Anthony McLoughlin remains on Sheridan.

33 minutes, Meath 0-6 Wicklow 0-8: Wicklow needed that John McGrath point but they didn’t need Alan Forde to respond at the other end. Leighton Glynn got the assist for the first of those scores but he has been out of it as his side have gone mostly long to Seanie Furlong who is having a great battle with Kevin Reilly. That’ll surely change after the break as the breeze won’t favour them.

Half-time, Meath 0-7 Wicklow 0-8: Graham Reilly finishes the scoring for the half and it’s a little ominous for Wicklow as Meath are finding different ways to score, are becoming less sloppy at the back (granted they’ve still a way to improve), are surprising everyone with their midfield performance and will have the breeze for the second half. As for the leaders, they need to tick a few boxes if they are to get over the line. They need to vary the long-ball tactic into Seanie Furlong as Kevin Reilly is getting on top and in changing their ways, they need to involve Leighton Glynn and he needs to involve himself. James Stafford needs to take to the skies, Rory Finn needs to get into the game while Ciaran Hyland and Brian Farrell is going to be as good a watch as it is vital to the outcome. If we had to call it though, we’d take Meath every time provided they get the Joe Sheridan of the second quarter and not the first.

For the record, the press box have scientifically settled on an attendance of 7,000 people. We shall be back with all the second-half action shortly.

More scientifically, probably because they asked someone in the know, the attendance is actually 7,350 according to LMFM. We weren’t far off.

37 minutes, Meath 0-8 Wicklow 0-8: Teams back out for second half, one change on Wicklow team with Peader Burke on for Darragh O’Sullivan. He’s gone to midfield with Rory Finn gone to centre-forward. But it’s Meath back level straight away as Graham Reilly uses the breeze to kick a big score.

41 minutes, Meath 0-9 Wicklow 0-8: Leighton Glynn tumbles after a foot block on Cian Ward who has been largely anonymous up to that point. But whatever about the free being in front of the posts, there’s a far bigger blow to Wicklow as their captain doesn’t get up. The stretcher is on the field and there’s a lengthy delay as Glynn leaves in pain. Paul Earls comes on, Ward points the free and it’s hard to see a way back for Wicklow even with the minimum in it.

47 minutes, Meath 0-11 Wicklow 0-8: Graham Reilly has been immense and gets his third point from play, this time a long fisted effort. Without Glynn, and with Kevin Reilly and the wind going against the Seanie Furlong option, it’s hard to see where Wicklow will get the scores. Not Meath though, Reilly sends one over from way out. Dare we say it. Game over?

49 minutes, Meath 0-11 Wicklow 0-9: Rory Finn points, Niall Gaffney replaces Alan Byrne and the Wicklow supporters are desperate for James Stafford to get into it at centrefield.

52 minutes, Meath 0-12 Wicklow 0-9: Rory Finn returns to midfield – that experiment didn’t work – with Darren Hayden now at centre-forward. But the action is at the other end where Graham Reilly is looking an All Star, granted in May.

57 minutes, Meath 0-12 Wicklow 0-10: Tony Hannon sticks over a free and John McGrath is replaced by Conor McGraynor but there are more and more cracks for Wicklow to paper over as this game goes on. Granted Meath haven’t gone long this half as Hyland gets to grips with Farrell but when they run from deep, Meath are causing problems and they are having amble opportunity as they have surprisingly been the better at centrefield, particularly Brian Meade.  Meanwhile Jamie Queeey is on for Mark Collins, adding extra pace.

59 minutes, Meath 0-13 Wicklow 0-10: Wicklow turn the ball over, and find Farrell finally in space. He’s lost the duel with Hyland but he’s kicked a comforting point here.

65 minutes, Meath 0-13 Wicklow 0-10: Jason Bolger on for Stephen Byrne for Wicklow, moments before substitute Conor McGraynor gets on a bouncing ball, beats his man, shoots low but has his effort saved well by David Gallagher. The one upside for Wicklow in all this is there should be about eight minutes of injury-time.

67 mins, Meath 0-13 Wicklow 0-10: Peader Byrne replaces Graham Reilly who is our Man of the Match. Meanwhile James Stafford picks up a second yellow and is off.

70 minutes, Meath 0-13 Wicklow 0-10: Brian Sheridan on for Cian Ward who has been poor, but it shouldn’t matter even if we’ll be having at least eight minutes of injury time.

70+2 minutes, Meath 0-14 Wicklow 0-11: Jamie Queeney pops up, another assist for Joe Sheridan there. Wicklow have scored two points in this second half although it could have been more as Peader Burke gets an opening after David Gallagher loses a high ball. But his shot on goal is just wide. Make it three points in this half as Tony Hannon puts over a dead ball. Goal or nothing now for Wicklow

70+5 minutes, Meath 0-16 Wicklow 0-11: That should do it as Joe Sheridan who has been playing closer to midfield in the closing stages points from long range. That will do it as Jamie Queeney gets his second in a matter of moments.

Full-time Meath 0-16 Wicklow 0-11: Joe Sheridan has time to get in a drop kick but Wicklow don’t have time to make any indents into that lead. In truth it was comfortable for Banty and co and five points is a deserved winning margin. Stay with us here on The Score for analysis and match reaction throughout the evening.

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