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Meath breathe a sigh of relief as they scrape past Sligo for first qualifier win in six years

Mickey Newman hit two decisive scores in the closing minutes on his return from injury.

Mickey Newman (file pic).
Mickey Newman (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Meath 0-14

Sligo 1-9

By Paul Keane at Pairc Tailteann, Navan

IT WASN’T AWLAYS pretty from Meath but on a night of difficulties for favourites in the qualifiers, progression was paramount and late points from Mickey Newman and Sean Tobin secured that.

Newman hadn’t featured for Meath all season due to an ankle injury but the experienced attacker came on and scored two points, his first tying the game up in 67th minute.

His second put Meath ahead and injury-time scores from Sean Tobin stretched the hosts’ lead to three and ultimately secured a hard fought win.

It wasn’t vintage football from Andy McEntee’s Meath but it was a first win in six years in the back door series all the same.

They had to survive a late goal siege too as Sligo substitute David Kelly first had a 76th minute shot cleared off the line before blasting the follow up over.

Meath were on home soil in the qualifiers for the first time since losing to Kildare in 2011.

Boss McEntee made three changes to the side that lost again to the Lilies last month, introducing Brian Power, Ruairi O Coileain and Sean Tobin for Donnacha Tobin, James Toher and Bryan McMahon.

As for Sligo, goalscorer Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch and veteran attacker Mark Breheny were late additions to the lineup having initially been named on the bench.

Former captain Breheny, the longest serving inter-county footballer, had fond memories of Meath having made his debut in a league game against them way back in 2000.

The first-half was a forgettable affair but Sligo weren’t overly bothered as they took a 1-6 to 0-6 lead into the interval.

O’Kelly-Lynch’s 30th minute goal separated the sides in a dour, free-ridden half.

Patrick O’Connor did the spade work for the goal with a run through the middle before offloading to O’Kelly-Lynch who bundled the ball over the line under pressure from a number of backs.

It was only Sligo’s second goal in the Championship and came as a hammer blow for Meath supporters who turned out expecting a strong response following the team’s nine-point defeat to Kildare.

But the Division 2 outfit only registered four points from play in the entire first-half with just two of those coming from forwards, captain Graham Reilly and James McEntee.

Sligo did have the wind advantage early on and Murphy’s 27th minute point that tied the game up at 0-6 apiece rode the wind from a long way out.

Meath, who lost midfielder Ronan Jones to an early injury, sought to capitalise on the breeze after the break as they shot into the town end goals themselves.

A dejected Sean Tobin of Meath at the end of the game Meath's Sean Tobin (file pic). Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

They did, but only to an extent, and while they fought back to level terms after 54 minutes with points from Reilly, Cillian O’Sullivan, Donal Lenihan and Sean Tobin, they couldn’t move ahead.

Sligo captain Neil Ewing hit an inspirational 58th minute point to put his side one clear again, 1-8 to 0-10, and punched the air in a bid to rally his colleagues.

But it was Meath who finished strongest and 0-4 without reply, inspired by the returning Newman, eased them home.

Scorers for Meath: Donal Lenihan 0-3 (0-3f), Sean Tobin 0-3 (0-1 ’45), Graham Reilly 0-2, Michael Newman 0-2 (0-2f), Cillian O’Sullivan 0-1, Ronan Jones 0-1, James McEntee 0-1, Shane McEntee 0-1.

Scorers for Sligo: Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch 1-1, Adrian Marren 0-4 (0-3f, 0-1 ’45), Neil Ewing 0-1, Pat Hughes 0-1, Niall Murphy 0-1, David Kelly 0-1.

MEATH: Paddy O’Rourke; Donal Keogan, Conor McGill, Mickey Burke; Pauric Harnan, Brian Power, Shane McEntee; Bryan Menton, Ronan Jones; James McEntee, Cillian O’Sullivan, Graham Reilly; Ruairi O Coileain, Sean Tobin, Donal Lenihan.

Subs: James Toher for Jones (15), Brian Conlon for Power (h/t), Thomas O’Reilly for J McEntee (57), Michael Newman for Lenihan (61), Donnacha Tobin for Harnan (65), Eamon Wallace for O’Sullivan 75).

SLIGO: Aidan Devaney; Ross Donavan, Charlie Harrison, Keelan Cawley; Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch, Brendan Egan, Neil Ewing; Adrian McIntyre, Patrick O’Connor; John Kelly, Mark Breheny, Niall Murphy; Stephen Coen, Pat Hughes, Adrian Marren.

Subs: Noel Gaughan for Harrison (47), Kyle Cawley for Kelly (48), Kevin McDonnell for Breheny (54), David Kelly for Egan (58, black card), Stephen Gilmartin for McIntyre (67), Christopher Davey for O’Connor (72).

Ref: Noel Mooney (Cavan).

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Paul Keane

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