Meath opened their NHL Division 2 campaign on the front foot with this decisive win over Wicklow at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday afternoon.
Meath …… 2-24
Wicklow …. 2-14
The Royals win was all the more impressive as they played from the 31st minute with just 14 men.
Tipperary official deemed Damien Healy’s challenge on Wicklow’s Luke Maloney worthy of a straight red card. Seoirse Bulfin’s men led by 0-11 to 0-6 at that point.
However, the Royals were backed by the blustery elements at this stage. A daunting task seemed to lay ahead for the home side as they opened their promotion bid following demotion last year.
Worse was to follow for Meath when in first half stoppage time, Seanie Germaine pulled a goal back for Wicklow to shave the deficit to two points.
There was still time for the game’s top scorer, Padraig O’Hanrahan, to land a 65 into the town end.
Given the conditions, a three-point interval advantage - 0-12 to 1-6 - looked uncomfortable.
To their credit, Meath moved 11 points clear by the 42nd minute. A productive spell yielded 1-5 without reply with Sean Quigley netting with assistance from the highly productive Eamon O Donnchadha.
Wicklow sub Andy O’Brien announced his arrival with a 44th minute goal. Though backed by the elements the Garden County struggled to eat into the deficit.
A Sean Quigley point was the highlight for the hosts as they moved 10 points (1-19 to 2-6) clear by them mid point of the second half.
The elements strengthened in the final quarter and Wicklow reaped some benefit matching Meath, 0-8 to 1-5, in the latter stages.
With just six points between the teams following David Maloney’s 56th minute point, another Wicklow goal would have made matters very uncomfortable for Meath.
Meath staved Wicklow off with a number of points, including a brace from substitute Paddy Barnwell. In stoppage time Mikey Cole bagged Meath’s second goal, helped by another replacement Jack Regan.
Meath had the backing of the wind in the first half and were never headed in the opening 35 minutes.
Padraig O’Hanrahan chipped in with six first half points, the highlight being a pointed 21st minute sideline cut.
Despite the obstacles, Meath maintained their lead to the end to finish on a positive note.
Meath - Padraig O'Hanrahan 0-11 (seven frees, three 65s, one sideline); Sean Quigley 1-2; Mikey Cole 1-0; Eamon O Donnchadha 0-3; Paddy Barnwell 0-2; Kyle Donnelly 0-1; James Kelly 0-1; Pa Ryan 0-1; Nicky Potterton 0-1; Damien Healy 0-1;Jack Regan 0-1.
Wicklow - Andy O'Brien 1-5 (0-4fs); Gavin Weir 0-4 (fs); Seanie Germaine 1-0; Daniel Staunton 0-2; Diarmuid Masterson 0-1; Luke Evans 0-1; David Maloney 0-1.
Meath - Charlie Ennis; Stephen Morris, Sean Geraghty, Brendan McKeon; Kyle Donnelly, James Toher, James Kelly; Pa Ryan, Nicky Potterton; Simon Ennis, Damien Healy, Niall McLarnon; Sean Quigley, Eamon O Donnchadha, Padraig O'Hanrahan. Subs - Paddy Barnwell for N Potterton (4-24), Jack Regan for Ryan (51), Shane Brennan for Geraghty (56), Paddy Barnwell for McLarnon (57), Mikey Cole for Quigley (62), Daire Shine for O'Hanrahan (70 + 2).
Wicklow - Cian Staunton; Ben Kearney, Peter Keane, Tommy Collins; Andrew Kavanagh, Padraig Doyle, John Henderson; Luke Maloney, Padraig Doran; Daniel Staunton, Seanie Germaine, Diarmuid Masterson; Mikey Lee, David Maloney, Gavin Weir. Subs - Andy O'Brien for Lee (41), Eoghan Byrne for Keane (42), Luke Evans for Germaine (51); Martin O'Brien for Collins (53), Torna Mulconry for Weir (59).
Referee - Conor Doyle (Tipperary)