Bryan McMahon’s late goal proved decisive as Meath’s purposeful finish culminated in a narrow 1-13 to 0-14 victory over battling Offaly at Navan.
The shock looked on as the midlanders notched the first seven points of the second half to lead by four but Andy McEntee’s charges dug deep, registering a crucial unanswered, match-winning 1-4 salvo, Mickey Newman's brace kick-starting the revival before McMahon rose highest in a crowded goalmouth at the hospital end to claim the only goal of the game in the 63rd minute.
Offaly acquitted themselves well in the first half but a run of four successive points in the last five minutes before the interval handed the out-of-sorts winners a rather flattering 0-9 to 0-6 half-time advantage.
Newman’s free following a foul on Shane McEntee presented the hosts with the opening score but Niall McNamee replied in kind 60 seconds later. In the eleventh minute, midfielder Peter Cunningham edged the Faithful County ahead with a fine finish, but Cillian O’Sullivan hit back instantly.
McNamee’s second converted free and a Bernard Allen free sent the underdogs ahead by double scores halfway through the first half. Ben Brennan earned the approval of the home support with a tidy finish off his left boot and, following an excellent Donal Keogan interception, McMahon duly made it four each on 22 minutes.
Nine minutes from the break, a great Bryan Menton strike restored the winners’ lead, Cunningham quickly bringing John Maughan’s carefree charges back on terms. McNamee’s free temporarily had the visitors back in front but Royal captain Menton slotted his second on the half-hour mark – 0-6 apiece.
Thomas O’Reilly marked his first championship start with the lead point three minutes from the short whistle, O’Sullivan doubling Meath’s lead before a soft Newman free left three in it at the break.
Incredibly, the visitors doubled their half-time tally within ten minutes of the restart to lead by 0-12 to 0-9 after 45 minutes, Eoin Carroll (2), McNamee (3) and Allen firing super scores. The Division Three side were utterly dominant as Shane Horan knocked over their seventh unanswered point on 48 minutes
Some 20 minutes in, Newman (free) finally mustered Meath’s first score of the second half as the red-hot favourites closed to within three. Roaming full forward Newman lofted over a crucial score from play 90 seconds later - his fourth - and McMahon posted an invaluable point for the Royal County on the hour.
It was nervy stuff for the hosts as Newman and substitute Graham Reilly spurned chances but, with eight minutes left, McMahon contested a dropping ball with visiting goalkeeper Paddy Dunican, the Ratoath clubman coming out on top, poking the breaking ball to the net – 1-12 to 0-13.
Substitute James Conlon took his point in the first minute of added time. Offaly, who’d seen McNamee denied by a fine Andy Colgan save, didn’t give up but Niall Darby’s late strike proved to be no more than a consolation as Meath - despite failing to impress - booked a quarter-final date with Carlow in Tullamore on Saturday week.
Meath - A Colgan; S Lavin, C McGill, S Gallagher; J McEntee, D Keogan, G McCoy; B Menton (0-2), S McEntee; C O'Sullivan (0-2), B McMahon (1-2), B Brennan (0-1); B Dardis, M Newman (0-4, 3f), T O'Reilly (0-1). Subs: A Flanagan for S McEntee, J Conlon (0-1) for B Dardis, G Reilly for T O'Reilly, S Tobin for B Brennan, E Lynch for J McEntee, P Harnan for M Newman.
Offaly - P Dunican; D Hogan, E Rigney, D Dempsey; C Donohoe, J Moloney, N Darby (0-1); E Carroll (0-2), P Cunningham (0-2); S Horan (0-1), A Sullivan, C Mangan; B Allen (0-2, 1f), N McNamee (0-6, 4f), R McNamee. Subs: S Tierney for A Sullivan, J O'Connor for S Horan, P McConway for E Carroll, M Abbott for R McNamee, C Carroll for P Cunningham.
Referee - M McNally.Tweet