Louth's Rúairí Hanlon. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Leinster Minor Football Championship
Louth 0-12 4-14 Meath
Louth's hopes of repeating last year's Leinster minor final appearance were ended at the Gaelic Grounds tonight as they lost for the second time in the space of three weeks.
Victory over the Royals - who entered the match atop the group on the back of successive victories - following last week's draw with Wicklow was paramount for the Reds and while they started this encounter with six of the opening seven points, a two-goal spurt just before the break saw Meath lead by three at the interval.
The loss of Jonathon Commins - through a wrist injury - in the opening quarter hindered the hosts' attempts at recording a maiden success, while, in the midst of their most dominant spell early on, Louth failed to build a substantial enough lead. Despite racing into a 0-6 to 0-1 advantage, with Joe Mee, Conall McCaul and Tom Jackson pointing from range, Louth's tally of six wides, to Meath's meagre two, allowed the Royals to remain in touch.
Meath went scoreless from minute six to 22 with Luke Mitchell their only player to register prior to the goal-burst, which arrived in successive minutes through Cian McBride and the impressive Luke Kelly. Joe Treanor's charges threatened to run riot at that juncture, though Louth rallied and trailed by just three at half-time; 2-4 to 0-7.
Points were traded in the early stages of the second half, as Ryan Walsh converted twice to bring his tally to four for the Wee County, however, another powerful surge from the visitors resulted in a second two-goal salvo in the space of 60 seconds as Mitchell and Matthew Costello - whose class became evident - rattled the net to put Meath 12 clear. Louth have now conceded 12 goals in three championship matches.
Substitute Craig Lennon and a second from Jackson reduced the home side's deficit to 11 entering the closing moments, however, Meath, who look serious contenders for provincial honours, finished with three unanswered points to stretch the winning margin to 14 points.
Louth: Martin McEneaney; Finbarr Lynch, Paul McEvoy, Bobby Butterly; Rúairí Hanlon, Cathal Fleming, Gabriel Bell; Conall McCaul (0-1), Joe Mee (0-1); Tom Jackson (0-2), Dáire Nally, Craig Shevlin (0-1); Seán Healy, Ryan Walsh (0-5, four frees), Jonathon Commins (0-1, free)
Subs: Conor Quigley for Commins (12), Craig Lennon (0-1) for Shevlin (50), Conor Faulkner for Bell (53), Micheál Begley for Mee (56), Jamie Winters for Butterly (59), Glen Stewart for McCaul (60)
Meath: Seán Brennan; James O'Hare, Harry O'Higgins, Cathal Hickey; Conor Farrelly, Conor Harford, Seán Coffey; Adam Reilly, Cian McBride (1-0); Darragh Swaine (0-1), Matthew Costello (1-4), Bryan McCormack (0-1); David Bell, Luke Kelly (1-1), Luke Mitchell (1-5, 0-4 frees)
Subs: Brian O'Hanlon (0-1) for Bell (36), Óisín McCloskey for Harford (50), Adam Treanor for McCormack (50), Joe Moore (0-1) for Kelly (54), Niall Bennett for Swaine (57), Jack Dardis for Hickey (60)
Referee: Fergal Smyth (Offaly)