Derry may have salvaged a share of the spoils with an injury time equalising point from James Kielt in the opening game against Clare at Celtic Park but there would be no salvage operation at the weekend game in Navan’s Pairc Tailteann, merely a second half wreckage that saw Meath crush the Oak Leaf County by 15 points.
Derry had the advantage of a strong wind in the first half but they struggled to a 0-06 to 0-04 interval lead, one that would patently not be enough.
Meath had created a plethora of scoring chances but spurned them, including two early Donal Lenihan frees and a Cillian O’Sullivan goal chance.
For eight minutes of the second half they resisted the growing Meath challenge, Enda Lynn putting them 0-08 to 0-06 ahead.
But the Derry defensive dam eventually burst and Meath crushed the Oak Leafers with ruthless efficiency to inflict Derry’s heaviest league defeat for many a year!
With the Slaughtneil contingent unlikely to be available until possibly the last two games, and Mark Lynch out injured possibly for the rest of the league Derry now face the stark threat of a relegation battle!
After a wasteful opening period Shane McEntee eventually opened the scoring in the 6th minute.
Bryan Menton doubled Meath’s lead when Ben McKinless tipped over his dropping effort, but by the 14th minute Derry were level as they used the wind to find their range through Benny Heron and Conor McAtamney.
O’Sullivan blazed another goal chance over the bar from a tight angle, but Derry restored parity two minutes later when Heron was allowed to drive through for a point.
O’Sullivan and Emmet McGuckian traded scores but both sides continued to pile up the wides before Derry finished the half strongly with late scores from Niall Loughlin (free) and Enda Lynn giving them a 0-06 to 0-04 interval lead.
The first half had been error strewn but Meath got their act together in the second period to crush Derry emphatically with a clinical exhibition of score taking as Derry capitulated against a relentless onslaught.
Meath outscored Derry 3-11 to 0-03 in the second half, Derry keeper Ben McKinless black carded in the final minutes, as were Enda Lynn and Meath’s Eamon Wallace.
Derry maintained their two-point half time cushion for eight minutes after the break as Menton and Forde traded points with James Kielt and Lynn, but Derry only scored once more for the remainder as Meath sliced through the porous Derry defence at will to rack up a huge score.
Cillian O’Sullivan’s first goal trickled over the line as McKinless parried his effort, but that score lit the touch-paper and Derry crumbled.
Two points from Bryan Menton and scores from Brian Sheridan and Ruairi O Coilean pushed Meath into a 1-10 to 0-08 lead.
Forde picked up his first yellow card after a series of fouls before points from Joey Wallace and Cian O’Brien made it 1-12 to 0-08.
Meath lost Eamon Wallace to a black card and a minute later Forde picked up his second yellow and was sent-off in the 64th.
Kielt pointed for Derry but Meath finished in style as Bryan McMahon netted, James Toher converted a 45 and McMahon kicked a free, after the Derry goalkeeper was black carded.
O’Coileain got another point before O’Sullivan took his tally to 2-02 with a fine goal to complete the rout.
The Meath scorers were - Cillian O’Sullivan 2-02, Ruairi Ó Coileain 0-02, Brian Menton 0-04 Bryan McMahon 1-01, Shane McEntee, Brian Sheridan, James Toher ‘45’, Alan Forde, Cian O’ Brien and Joey Wallace 0-01 each.
The Derry scorers were - Benny Heron 0-02, Enda Lynn 0-02, James Kielt 0-02, Conor McAtamney and Emmett McGuckin 0-01 each.
Meath - Paddy O’Rourke; Donal Keogan, Conor McGill, Mickey Burke; Willie Carry, Brian Power, Shane McEntee; James Toher, Bryan Menton; Alan Forde, Cillian O’Sullivan, Cian O’Brien; Conor Downey, Brian Sheridan, Donal Lenihan; Joey Wallace for C. Downey 29 mins; Ruairi O’Coileain (0-2) for M. Burke H-T; Bryan McMahon for D. Lenihan 52 mins; Eamon Wallace for S. McEntee 58mins Black Card Replacement - Kevin Ross for Eamon Wallace 65 mins; Sean Tobin for B. Sheridan 70mins.
Derry - Ben McKinless; Ronan Murphy, Conor Nevin, Peter Hagan; Niall Keenan, Neil Forrester, Michael McEvoy; Conor McAtamney, James Kielt; Enda Lynn, Niall Loughlin, Carlus McWilliams; Danny Talon, Benny Heron, Emmett McGuckin; Oisin Hegarty for Peter Hagan 43 min; Jack Doherty for Conor Nevin 44 mins; Gavan O’Neill for Conor McAtamney 54 mins; Ryan Bell for Niall Loughlin 59 mins; Thomas Mallon for Ben McKinless 70 mins Black Card Replacement - Enda Lynn Black Card Replacement-Not Replacement.
Referee - Liam Devanney (Mayo).