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Meath shock Tyrone to claim All-Ireland Minor football title

Meath upset the odds in the All-Ireland minor decider in Croke Park to lift the title for the first time since 1992. They recovered from a poor start and survived a dramatic finish to secure a famous win.

ot favourites Tyrone failed to justify the tag. Though they led 1-3 to 0-2 after just nine minutes their game gradually disintegrated. They lost midfielder Ronan Donnelly just after the break and kicked eleven second half wides.

They had a chance to bring the game to extra time in the fifth minute of injury time, but substitute Conor Owens missed a straight forward looking free from just outside the D with the last kick of the game.

Liam Kelly, Tomás Corbett, Sean Emmanuel and Jack Kinlough, who featured on the 2020 Meath squad which lost to eventual champions Derry earlier this season, were available to Royal manager Cathal Ó Bric and all played key roles as did full forward Oisín Ó Murchú, who scored 1-2 from play.

Even though both sides deployed a sweeper there was nothing defensive about the football produced in the first quarter as fortunes swayed dramatically in a thrilling encounter.

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Sean Leonard of Meath scores the winning point during the Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship final

It was first blood to Tyrone who raced into a 1-3 to 0-2 lead after eight minutes – the goal coming from centre forward and team captain Cormac Devlin.

The Ulster side were far more efficient up front but two unforced errors on their part turned the game back in favour of Meath.

Tyrone lost their first re-start and it proved costly as the play was transitioned rapidly to Ó Murchú. His marker Callan Kelly slipped as he attempted to tackle the full forward who calmly slotted the ball to the roof to the net.

Then at the other end a shot was dropped into the hand of keeper of Oisín McDermott who initiated a counter-attack which ended with Sean Emmanuel kicking the equalising point.

The scoring rate dropped after the water break as both defences got on top.

Tyrone’s tactic of carrying the ball into the opposition half was repeatedly thwarted by the Meath defence while the close-quarter marking of the Tyrone defence was a joy to behold as they stripped Meath forwards of possession.

Meath though had the edge in the second quarter and deserved their 1-7 to 1-6 lead at half time.

Indeed, they ought to have been further ahead having hit seven wides compared to three for the Ulster champions who had Callan Kelly yellow carded for an off the ball foul on Ó Murchú who was able to resume after lengthy treatment.

Tyrone lost midfielder Ronan Donnelly immediately after the break through injury as the standard of football declined sharply. Meath squandered four chances while Tyrone missed three.

Twice in the space of three minutes near the end of the third quarter, Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Robinson saved his side – first blocking an Ó Murchú shot and then advancing smartly to deflect a Hughie Corcoran shot for a ’45 after Tyrone had messed up the re-start.

Unlike his outfield colleagues Meath goalkeeper Oisín McDermott was deadly accurate converting two 45s and Hughie Corcoran’s third point left Meath in control (1-11 to 1-8) at the second water break.

Tyrone controlled the final quarter, however, but after cutting the deficit to a point in the 56th minute they hit four successive wides all kicked from distance.

Meath couldn’t win their own kick-out and inevitably in the third minute of the four minutes of allotted injury time, substitute Jack Martin won a free which another replacement, Conor Owens, converted to tie up the final.

Extra time loomed but when it mattered most Meath stood up and were counted.

Corner forward Christian Finlay moved back into his own half to win the re-start after the Tyrone equaliser. The ball was worked forward before Finlay’s Naomh Colmcille club-mate Shaun Leonard displayed nerves to steel to kick a wonderful point into the Hill 16 end against the breeze.

The clock read 64.06 but there was still more drama as Tyrone drove the ball downfield and Conor Owens was fouled on the left hand edge of the semi-circle.

From his hands, Owens knocked it right and wide. Meath had survived and deservingly so.

Scorers: Meath – O O’Murchu 1-2, H Corcroan 0-3, 1f, O McDermott,(2 45s), S Leonard 0-2 each, J Kinlough 0- S Emmanuel, C McSweeney 0-1 each. Tyrone – C Devlin 1-1 R Cassidy 0-3, (2f) R McHugh E McElhom (2f) , C Owens (2f), 0-2 each, H Cunningham 0-1 (1f).

Meath: O McDermott; C Ennis, L Kelly, S O’Hare, T Corbett, J O’Regan, K Smyth; P Wilson, J Kinlough; S Leonard, S Emmanuel, C McWeeney; C Finlay, O O’Murchu, H Corcoran. Subs: A Moore for McWeeney 52m, J Foley for Corcoran 58m, Brian O’Halloran for Kelly 61m.

Tyrone: N Robinson; M Rafferty, R Fox, C Kelly; H Cunningham, S O’Hare, M Mallon; R Donnelly, R McHugh; R Strain, C Devlin, G Potter; R Cassidy, P McCann, Eoin McElholm. Subs: C Owens for Potter ht; J Martin for Donnelly (injured) 32m , N Grimes for McCann 48m, R Molloy for Cunningham 57m.

Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).

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