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2024 TG4 All-Ireland Finals tickets

Byrne goals secure opening league win for Meath

Lidl National Football League

Meath 2-18

Mayo 1-15

By BRIAN GILLESPIE

Meath started life under new manager Shane McCormack with a fully merited victory over Mayo in the opening round of the Lidl National Football League Division 1 at the University of Galway Connacht GAA Air Dome.

With howling wind and driving rain outside, the Mayo and Meath players adapted quickly to relative calm inside the Dome and delivered an entertaining, competitive game of football.

The switch from James Stephens Park in Ballina due to the storm allowed the players on both teams to express themselves, and this made for an enjoyable opening half.

It was nip and tuck early on, with Maria Cannon proving accurate from placed balls while Mayo also landed impressive points from play courtesy of Ciara Smyth and Niamh Gallogly before Emma Duggan – who started the game in place of Ailbhe Leahy – opened her tally with a free on six minutes.

It remained close until Cannon, taking a pass from Tara Needham on the run, found the back of the Meath net to make it 1-5 to 0-5 for the home side in the 16th minute, but this just spurred Meath into action.

By half-time Meath, inspired by Áine Sheridan in defence and Duggan up front, had established a five-point advantage at 2-10 to 1-8, with Meadbh Byrne gettinfg both goals after the Mayo defence was carved open, while Aobhin Cleary played a big part in the build-up each time.

Two early second-half points from Cannon suggested a comeback might be on the cards until Meath rattled off five without replay – Duggan landing three of them, including a free – to end the game as a contest.

Mayo ended a 16-minute gap without a score when Cannon scored another free, but they could never really close the gap and in the end Meath ran out winners by six points.

Scorers – Meath: E Duggan 0-10 (5f), M Byrne (2-0), C. Smyth 0-4, N. Gallogly 0-3, M. Farrelly 0-1.

Mayo: M Cannon 1-12 (10f), T. Needham 0-1, F. McHale 0-1, S. Walsh 0-1.

 MEATH: M McGuirk; K Newe, A Sheridan, N Troy; N Gallogly, M.K. Lynch, A Cleary; M O’Shaughnessy, S Melia; M Thynne, E Moyles, C Smith; M Byrne, M Farrelly, E Duggan. Subs: A Leahy for Byrne (57), T Foster for Gallogy, O Mallon for Moyles, L Young for Thynne (all 60).

MAYO: L Reid; L Wallace, S Lally, N O’Malley; K Sullivan, D Caldwell, J Mortimer; A Geraghty, H Reape; F McLaughlin, L Cafferky, M Cannon; T Needham, F McHale, A Fitzpatrick. Subs: A Gough for H Reape (38), E Reape for Sullivan (42), E. Needham for McHale (46), S Walsh for T Needham (49), C Henry for Cafferky (52).

Referee: Gus Chapman (Sligo).

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