Football League Division Two North: 14-man Down well beaten by Meath at Athletic Grounds

Meath's Cillian O'Sullivan (right) scored two goals to crush Down's hopes of a victory
Meath's Cillian O'Sullivan (right) scored two goals to crush Down's hopes of a victory

Down's disappointing start to their Division Two North campaign continued as Cillian O'Sullivan's two goals lifted Meath to a 2-15 to 0-14 victory at the Athletic Grounds.

O'Sullivan found the back of the net twice in the space of five minutes early in the second half.

His second goal put Meath 10 points up and effectively killed the game.

Down full-back Gerard McGovern was red-carded late in the second half to add insult to injury for the Mournemen.

The result seals The Royals' place in the promotion semi-final with Mayo, leaving Down destined for a relegation play-off against Westmeath.

Having been emphatically dispatched 2-21 to 1-11 by Mayo in last week's opener in Castlebar, Down boss Paddy Tally made five changes with Kilcoo full-forward Paul Devlin among those reinstated to the XV.

And there was an early opportunity for Down - who were playing in Armagh after their training ban breach saw them stripped of home advantage - to gain a foothold in the game at a rain-battered Athletic Grounds when Eoin Harkin was black-carded inside the opening minute.

However, it was the Leinster side who responded brightly to that flashpoint as Cathal Hickey and Matthew Costello both slotted over points before Donal Keogan smashed the crossbar in the game's first goal chance after being teed up by Hickey.

Meath will face Mayo in the promotion semi-final with Down up against Westmeath in the relegation play-off
Meath will face Mayo in the promotion semi-final with Down up against Westmeath in the relegation play-off

Indeed, Meath were 0-5 to 0-1 by the time Down forward Corey Quinn forced a smart save from Andy Colgan, and while Andy McEntee's side continued to dominate possession, the Mournemen did well to trail by just two points at the break.

But after the impressive Jordan Morris extended Meath's advantage to three, O'Sullivan struck a crucial blow to Down's hopes when he found the back of Marc Reid's net via the post having done well to get his left-footed shot away after momentarily losing control of the ball.

And just two minutes after Jonny Flynn's black card, O'Sullivan used his pace to beat Peter Fegan, round Reid and fire home off the Down keeper's left-hand post for the second time.

That goal really took the sting out of the game but Down's woes were deepened when McGovern received a straight red card for his late challenge on Costello.

Despite flashes of quality on the day from Devlin and Quinn, who hit a combined 0-9 for Down, Meath always looked too strong as they claimed their second successive win to sit second behind Mayo in Division Two North.

Down, meanwhile, will have a relegation play-off against Westmeath to look forward to with the loser dropping down to the third tier.

Meath: A Colgan (0-1); S Lavin, C McGill, E Harkin; C Hickey (0-1), S McEntee, D Keogan; B Menton, P Harnan; E Devine, B McMahon (0-1), M Costello (0-1); J Morris (0-7, 3f), T O'Reilly (0-1), C O'Sullivan (2-1)

Subs: R Ryan for Harkin 24, E Wallace (0-1) for Hickey 53, J Scully for McMahon 53, J Conlon for Morris 61, D Campion for O'Sullivan 61, G McCoy for Costello 68, D Dixon for McEntee 72

Down: M Reid; P Fegan, G McGovern, P Murdock; P Laverty, D O'Hagan, C Mooney; R McEvoy (0-2, 1f), J Flynn; J Guinness, B O'Hagan (0-1, 1f), L Kerr; D Guinness, C Quinn (0-4, 1f), P Devlin (0-5, 5f)

Subs: C Doherty for J Guinness 41, J Wallace for O'Reilly 47, P Branagan for Mooney 50, S McConville for Kerr 50, G Collins for D O'Hagan 53, C Gough for Flynn 55, C McCrickard (0-2, 1f)) for B O'Hagan 55, D Savage for Quinn 61

Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh)

Sunday's Allianz Football League results

Division One South
Division Two South
Division Two North
Division Four North