Dubs and Royals serve up thrilling draw

June 03, 2007
Dublin and Meath played out a scintillating draw in front of 78,000 fanatical supporters in a cracking Leinster SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Alan Brogan controversially hit the game's only goal in first-half injury time but Meath battled back for a 0-14 to 1-11 share of the spoils. The defending provincial champions were pushed all the way by a gallant Meath side who refused to bend the knee despite suffering a nightmare start. The Royals were never in front, though it could have been different had some key decisions gone in their favour. Graham Geraghty was both victim and villain: he was denied a legitimate-looking goal but also showed his dark side with a couple of what appeared to be foul blows. Substitute Cian Ward also made a vital contribution for Colm Coyle's side. The Wolfe Tones clubman struck five exquisite points from placed balls after entering the fray late on. For Dublin, Conal Keaney was on top of his game, while Brogan always looked dangerous and Shane Ryan worked his socks off. Dublin led by a goal at the end of scintillating first half, 1-6 to 0-6. They stormed five points ahead but then had to withstand a brave Meath revival. The Royals could feel very hard done by at that stage as Geraghty had a first-half goal disallowed for no reason whatsoever, while Dublin's major looked suspiciously like a square ball. With a bit more luck in the decision-making stakes, the underdogs could well have been a goal to the good at half time… The entire first quarter completely bypassed Meath as they struggled to come to terms with the pace, strength and intensity of Dublin's play. Once they shook off their Division Two cobwebs, however, they gradually gained a foothold in the match. The Dubs made a blistering start with three points in the first five minutes. The best Meath could muster in response was two late hits on Dublin captain Collie Moran, Stephen Bray and Mark Ward the culprits. Royal goalkeeper Brendan Murphy dealt with Alan Brogan's dangerous first-minute shot, knocking it out for a 45, which Mossie Quinn stroked majestically between the posts. When Brogan was felled by Anthony Moyles bearing down on goal, Keaney converted the free into the Canal End from slightly to the right of the posts. On five minutes, Keaney registered a great point from play to make it 0-3 to no score. When Seamus Kenny perpetrated a reckless challenge on Darren Magee on the end line, it presented Quinn with the perfect opportunity to stretch the Metropolitans' advantage and the Dubs attacker duly stroked the ball over to make it 0-4 with nine minutes played. Twelve minutes had elapsed before Meath got the ball into the Dublin half for the first time, but Joe Sheridan's mis-hit free was a complete waste. The tension was palpable in the Croker cauldron and there was a slight scuffle in the middle of the pitch involving Ciaran Whelan and Meath No.11 Kevin O'Reilly. Dublin were all over the challengers and Murphy had to be at his brilliant best to deny Brogan a goal. The former Wimbledon custodian dived superbly to divert the corner forward's goalbound flick. Murphy saved wonderfully again when two Meath backs misjudged a long delivery and he had only a split second to react. The visitors were hanging on and were lucky to be just four adrift at the end of the first quarter. Shane Ryan grabbed Dublin's next score and Sheridan opened Meath's account when he benefited from sloppy Dublin defending, The first talking point arrived on 20 minutes when the recalled Graham Geraghty was on the wrong end of a crazy refereeing decision. The budding politician gathered possession after easing his man out of the way and blasted the ball to the net. A magnificent score but it was ruled out for the manner of Geraghty's 'challenge' on the defender. Bray and Geraghty supplied stunning Meath points from acute angles - one off either foot - and suddenly the men in green had closed within two points: 0-5 to 0-2. In the 26th minute, Bray picked out Geraghty with a precise pass and Meath got a free as David Henry was hanging out of the Meath target man. Peter Curran kept his cool to register a fourth successive Royal County score from the placed ball. Brogan curled over Dublin's sixth point - a fantastic score from the right - and the home side had a lucky escape when a dangerous high ball almost evaded Stephen Cluxton, but the Dublin goalie did enough to avert the threat. Four minutes from the break, Quinn slipped the Meath full back line but his close-range shot went inches outside the left-hand post into the side-netting. Croke Park erupted as the majority of spectators saw the net ripple and assumed it was a goal. With the veteran Darren Fay rolling back the years to inspire those around him in a beleaguered Meath defence, the match remained in the melting pot. Bray expertly clipped another Meath point to close the gap to the minimum with a minute left in the first half. The second talking point of the half arrived in stoppage time. Brogan punched a high ball to the Meath net and the goal stood even though it was clearly a square ball. Sheridan kept shellshocked Meath in touch with a nice point deep into added time. When the short whistle sounded, Dublin led controversially by 1-6 to 0-6. It could have been the other way around but two refereeing howlers appeared to have deprived the Royals of justice. The Meath players came out of the dressing-rooms first for the second half but it was the Dubs who came out of the blocks faster as Keaney notched a point within 13 seconds of the restart. The Dublin full forward scored another sensational point less than a minute later. This time he broke down Ross McConnell's high ball and swivelled to hit the target from considerable distance and an awkward angle. Left back Caoimhin King broke forward to land a rousing Meath score in the 40th minute but Sheridan's effort was wide moments later. Trailing by 1-8 to 0-7, Meath almost found a way through in the 45th minute, but Peadar Byrne's fisted pass slipped agonisingly away from Sheridan's grasp and gathered pace on the oily surface. At the other end, Quinn's high shot was ferried over the bar by Murphy for a Dublin point. Geraghty seemed to catch Henry with a sneaky blow, though it was difficult to assess the intent as the action was moving so quickly. Meath hero Cian Ward had been only seconds on the pitch when he converted his first free after Henry's foul on Geraghty. Geraghty almost got in for a goal but was thwarted at the last second by some great Dublin defending; Ward reduced the gap to a goal, 1-9 to 0-9, with just under 20 minutes remaining. Sheridan pulled back another point with a beautiful strike from play and Murphy made his third outstanding save to deny Quinn a goal at the end of a purposeful solo run. Quinn then sent the 45 wide and the gap stayed at two points with twelve minutes left. On the stroke of the hour, Meath closed within a point when Ward brilliantly drove over a 45, which Sheridan won with sheer persistence. It was Dublin's turn to be hard done by when Brogan should have been awarded a free-in but the decision went the other way. Kenny spurned an equalising chance. The sides were level on 62 minutes when Bray floated over a superb point from the right wing off his right boot - the Royals' fifth successive score. Dublin would lead twice more but Meath would reel them back on both occasions. Five minutes from time, Keaney restored Dublin's lead with their first point in 18 minutes and his fifth of the match. But Meath wouldn't lie down and Ward sent Byrne bearing down on goal. The Ballinlough man was tripped on the edge of the square and Ward effortlessly converted the free from his hands. With 90 seconds of normal time remaining, Moran swerved to put Dublin back ahead via a post - a great score. There was just a point in it as the match went into three minutes of added time. Sensationally, Ward completed his own personal fairytale with an equalising point from a sideline kick. A pulsating encounter ended with the sides all square: Dublin 1-11 Meath 0-14 Dublin - S Cluxton; D Henry, R McConnell, P Griffin, P Casey, B Cullen, B Cahill, C Whelan, D Magee, C Moran (0-1), S Ryan (0-1), D Connolly, A Brogan (1-1), C Keaney (0-5), T Quinn (0-3). Sub - R Cosgrove for D Connolly. Meath - B Murphy; E Harrington, D Fay, N McKeigue, S Kenny, A Moyles, C King (0-1), M Ward, N Crawford, P Curran (0-1), K Reilly, P Byrne, S Bray (0-3), J Sheridan (0-3), G Geraghty (0-1). Subs - C Ward (0-5) for P Curran, J Donegan for N Crawford, S O'Rourke for J Sheridan, N McLoughlin for King. Referee - Jimmy McKee (Armagh)

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