Sport

Colm O'Rourke hails best Meath performance of the year as Royals rumble Wexford in Tailteann Cup quarter-final

Meath manager Colm O'Rourke reacts on the line against Derry during the NFL match played at Owenbeg on Saturday 18th February 2023. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Meath manager Colm O'Rourke reacts on the line against Derry during the NFL match played at Owenbeg on Saturday 18th February 2023. Picture Margaret McLaughlin. Meath manager Colm O'Rourke reacts on the line against Derry during the NFL match played at Owenbeg on Saturday 18th February 2023. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.

Tailteann Cup quarter-final

Meath 2-23 Wexford 0-12

Colm O'Rourke hailed Meath's best performance since he took over as his investment in young and rookie talent continues to pay off.

Inspired by returning attacker James McEntee, who struck 0-6 from play, the Royals had their fourth consecutive win, and a semi-final spot at Croke Park next Sunday, virtually wrapped up by half-time.

McEntee, a medical doctor who spent last week working nights in a hospital, missed the National League and Leinster championship to focus on his fitness and looks a different player since returning.

Jordan Morris struck 0-6 too, bringing his tournament takings to 2-15 and leaving him on the cusp of a Tailteann Cup Allstar.

There were strong displays too from newcomer and goalscorer Aaron Lynch, experienced defender Padraic Harnan and Mathew Costello while substitute Cathal Hickey struck the second goal late on.

"It was our best performance probably since we took over and maybe the best performance in the first 20 minutes that we have seen in Navan in quite a while," said O'Rourke.

"I think we saw a very good performance coming. I think the Down game marked a fork in the road for us and since that Down game, and the way we won it, the training has gone really, really well and fellas have applied themselves.

"They've applied themselves all year but you could see that there was a bit of a pep in the step after the Down win."

Down, despite that two-point defeat to Meath, have been installed as tournament favourites ahead of Meath following their win over 2022 finalists Cavan.

O'Rourke remains confident and said he isn't bothered who they face next weekend at Croke Park with Meath's long-ball game coming along nicely.

"Earlier in the League we had worked well with the long ball," he said.

"By the time the League finished we were back to a short-passing game. We weren't kicking very much at all. We've concentrated a good bit on that in training. It seems to work out well.

"The other side of it is that we were playing in the second division this year - Wexford were playing in the fourth division. So we should have been winning this game on all known form anyway."

Meath S Brennan; H O'Higgins, R Ryan, A O'Neill; D Keogan, P Harnan, S Coffey; J Flynn (0-1), C Gray; J O'Connor, J McEntee (0-6), C Hickey (1-0); J Morris (0-6, 0-1 mark), M Costello (0-4, 0-2 frees), A Lynch (1-2).

Subs D Lenihan for Lynch h/t, D McGowan (0-3) for McEntee 48, C Caulfield for Keogan 49, C O'Sullivan for Flynn 51, E Frayne (0-1) for O'Connor 59.

Wexford D Brooks; B Cushe, E Porter (0-1), C Carty; G Malone (0-1), D Furlong, B Molloy; L Coleman (0-1), N Hughes; P Hughes (0-1), A Tobin, K O'Grady; R Brooks, M Rossiter (0-2, 2f), E Nolan (0-2).

Subs R Waters (0-1) for O'Grady 49, B Brosnan (0-2 frees) for R Brooks 49, C Hughes for Tobin 55, C Walsh for Furlong 59, J Bealin (0-1) for Nolan 65.

Ref B Griffin (Kerry).