Walsh Cup: Neil nails it for Meath

December 30, 2017

Neil Heffernan is about to score for Meath as Antrim's Aaron Laffan tries to block during the WalshCup game at Lomans Park Trim

Neil Heffernan's last gasp point secured a minimum margin Group 3 win for Meath over Antrim at Trim on Saturday afternoon.

Meath ...... 1-17
Antrim ....... 0-19

The Trim-club man put four impressive points to his name and but was eclipsed from play in the scoring stakes for the home side by his captain James Kelly.

Kelly scored 1-3 from play. His 26th minute goal - with assistance from Kiltale clubmate Anthony Forde - helped Meath's revival after they had fallen five behind in the second quarter.

Despite lining out at wing-back Jack Regan posted seven pointed frees for Meath.

Both sides will be operating in the Ring Cup this year, but Meath were more economical here. Antrim hit six second-half wides (when playing into the breeze) to Meath's two.

In manager Nick Fitzgerald's first game in charge, Meath took charge in the third quarter moving 1-13 to 0-13 clear midway through the second-half.

With the game's top scorer Neil McManus leading the way, Antrim rallied and were back on terms, 0-16 to 1-13, by the 62nd minute. McManus scored 0-10 (eight frees) including a magnificent effort from play that left the Glensmen ahead, 0-18 to 1-14, with under three minutes of 'normal' time left.

In added time James Toher - captain of Meath's 2016 Ring Cup winning side against Antrim - marked his return with an excellent point from distance with assistance from Sean Geraghty.

When McManus levelled matters for the ninth time, from a 50-metre free in a central position, a draw looked certain. There was still time for Heffernan to determine otherwise.

Despite conceding the the opening two scores to the returning James Toher and new captain James Kelly, Antrim led for most of the opening 35 minutes.

Neil McManus' five-point haul (four from frees including two deep inside his own half) accounted for nearly half of the visitors' first-half tally.

Conor McCann posted Antrim's first score seven minutes in before two McManus flags from frees gave his side the lead for the first time.

Eoin O'Neill and Conor Johnson also got on the scoresheet in this phase as Antrim moved 0-9 to 0-4 clear by the 23rd minute.

Meath bossed the scoring stakes in the latter stage of the half with Kelly and Neil Heffernan to the fore. The latter posted a trio points, marrying skill with tenacity to level matters in stoppage time.

It was the fourth time the sides were level and the board read 1-9 to 0-12 at the interval and set the scene for an exciting second-half.

Meath face Dublin at Abbotstown on Wednesday night while Antrim take on the Metropolitans at Parnell Park on Sunday, January 7 when the Group 3 fixtures will be completed.

Meath - Shane McGann; Sean Geraghty, Damien Healy, Niall Weir; Eoin Marsh, Keith Keoghan, Jack Regan (0-7 fs); James Toher (0-2), Colm O Mealoid; James Kelly (C) (1-3), Anthony Forde, Cathal McCabe (0-1); Sean Quigley, Adam Gannon, Neil Heffernan (0-4). Subs used - Joe Keena, Jack Walsh, Michael Cullen, Shane Brennan.

Antrim - Ryan Elliott; Conor Boyd, Aaron Laffan, Stephen Rooney; Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, David Kearney; Conor McKinley (0-1) N McAuley; Conor McCann (0-2), Conor Johnson (0-2), Nigel Elliott; Eoin O'Neill (0-3), Neil McManus (0-10 , 8fs) Daniel McCluskey (0-1). Subs used - Joe Maskey, Deaglun Murphy, Conor Carson.

Referee - Alfie Devine (Westmeath)

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