Heartbreak for hurlers as Meath prove too good

Meath 4-24 Wicklow 2-15

Mark O’Sullivan was Wicklow’s tormentor in chief as Meath powered to promotion in the league final at Parnell Park yesterday. The Royal county men will be in Division 2A in 2018 and deserve to be after their fine performance particularly in the second half. Three previous final appearances in 2B ended in defeats against Kildare twice and London in the past, but on this occasion Meath made no mistake despite a stern first-half test from the Wicklow men.

They are making strides in the small ball game and will take part in the Leinster championship soon after winning the Christy Ring Cup in 2016. The win will surely boost confidence ahead of this year’s return to the Leinster SHC round robin later this month with games against Kerry, Laois and Westmeath.

They shook off a determined Wicklow challenge in the opening 35 to lead 2-09 to 2-06 at the break. Meath led 0-6 to 0-2 after 14 minutes but Wicklow hit back and went ahead for the first time after Saint Patricks George O’Brien found the net on 21 minutes. O’Brien had started instead of Eoin McCormack in the only change to the selected Wicklow team.

The Garden County still led after Andy O’Brien pointed on 28 minutes but then Meath hit a purple patch during which O’Sullivan struck for two goals in the space of four minutes. Wicklow responded almost immediately with another Saint Pats man Andy O’Brien netting following a delivery from Peter Keane.

The Meath men produced a devastating burst in a seven minute spell immediately after half-time scoring 1-6 to go ahead 3-15 to 2-6 and effectively put themselves out of Wicklow’s reach. O’Sullivan struck for his third goal in that spell. Wicklow reduced the deficit to eight points at one stage but substitute Neil Heffernan ended any hopes of a close finish with his sides fourth goal. Wicklow never let their heads drop and will wonder why they started the second half so slowly. Meath were a transformed team on the restart and stepped up the gears to blow away Seamus Murphy’s men. There will be some concern after Padraig Doyle left the field with a nasty looking leg injury after landing awkwardly.

Murphy and Mick Neary will now turn their attention to the Christy Ring Cup and their opening game with London.

Wicklow: Christy Moorehouse 0-6 (5fs), Andy O’Brien 1-2, George O’Brien 1-1, Eoin McCormack 0-3, Padraig Doyle, Peter Keane and Danny Staunton 0-1 each.

SCORERS – Meath: M O’Sullivan 3-5, S Clynch 0-7 (6fs), N Heffernan 1-0, J Kelly 0-3, J Keena, S Brennan 0-2 each, K Keoghan, A Forde, D Healy, A Gannon, S Quigley (f)  0-1 each.

WICKLOW – Eoghan O’Mahony; Luke Maloney, Martin O’Brien, Warren Kavanagh; Garry Byrne, John Henderson, Peter Keane; Eamonn Kearns, Ronan Keddy; Danny Staunton, Christy Moorehouse, Diarmuid Masterson; George O’Brien, Andy O’Brien, Padraig Doyle. Subs: Eugene Dunne for Maloney (45), Eoin McCormack for Doyle (53), Wayne Kinsella for Masterson (58), J Connors for Keane (59), Billy Cuddihy for Keddy (68).

The team pictured above started the league campaign with a win in Roscommon.