Any punter who took odds on Meath winning this Allianz league division 2 clash would have been rubbing their hands at halftime with the Royals trailing by three points 2-6 to 2-3 and having the help of storm Franklin in the second period.
Then it all unravelled and the tactics employed in the second half need to be looked at.
Predictably Down dropped another player into defence, bizarrely with a gale behind them so did Meath when the obvious move was to push an extra player forward and make the Mourne men go man for man, instead the visitors were allowed the luxury of an extra body at the back ensuring that while they didn’t score themselves they restricted Meath to just three points.
Prior to throw in if he had been told Down would go an entire half without scoring the aforementioned punter would be even more optimistic of collecting.
And yet somehow Meath messed up.
The draw leaves both sides on one point and sees Andy McEntee’s side taking a treacherous trip to Tullamore next week to face Offaly in what is a must-win match if they are to avoid relegation to division 3 and missing out on the battle for Sam Maguire.
It could have been worse though as Down will have travelled back up the M1 disappointed they didn’t win, a late couple of chances falling to Caolan Mooney, one denied by a heroic plunge from Padraic Harnan, the other coming back off the crossbar.
Pat Havern struck 1-03 for Down while Andrew Gilmore contributed 1-02 though all of their scores came in the first-half with Meath outscoring James McCartan’s side by 0-03 to 0-00 in the second-half
Meath had an opportunity to win it as well but Morris’ attempt at goal from a free on the right ended up being caught by the wind and, bizarrely, going out for a sideline kick just yards away from him.
It might have helped Meath had they been able to win the toss as for the third game in a row they faced the elements in the first half.
They were beaten by half-time against Galway in Salthill and trailed Roscommon by nine points at the break in Round 2 so staying in touch with Down initially was crucial this time.
The early signs were positive for the hosts who played with plenty of urgency and moved 1-02 to 0-03 clear when corner-back Robin Clarke probed forward for an excellent goal.
Thomas O’Reilly, one of five late changes to the Meath team, played the defence-splitting pass to Morris who displayed quick hands to play in Clarke.
Two minutes later, Down netted themselves through Andrew Gilmore, setting in motion a tit-for-tat scoring encounter that made for an entertaining watch.
Gilmore finished well for his goal after a slick Down passing move which stemmed from a turnover on Meath’s kick-out.
Meath goalkeeper Harry Hogan had problems getting his kick-outs away safely with the wind howling and the ball holding up into the breeze.
He did convert two frees for Meath at the other end but also kicked a couple wide and dropped another short.
Jason Scully’s 20th minute goal, after a series of slick passes involving Donal Keogan and Mathew Costello, nudged Meath back ahead but, again, there was an immediate Down response which saw Havern find the net.
The second-half played out upon anticipated lines; Meath doing their best to reel in Down and the visitors getting everyone behind the ball in an attempt to protect their lead and to run down the clock.
From a home point of view, the concern was that their best was nowhere near good enough.
There was no second-half score from play at all.
Shane Walsh and Morris converted the second-half frees for Meath and it was Morris’ 60th minute point that ultimately proved the leveller.
Meath: Harry Hogan (0-02, 0-02f); Eoin Harkin, Jordan Muldoon, Robin Clarke (1-00); Donal Keogan, Shane McEntee, Cathal Hickey; Ethan Devine, Ronan Jones; Padraic Harnan, Thomas O’Reilly, Mathew Costello; Jordan Morris (0-02, 0-02f), Shane Walsh (0-02, 0-01f), Jason Scully (1-00).
Subs: Cillian O’Sullivan for Scully 44, Eamon Wallace for Devine 62, Jack O’Connor for O’Reilly 65, Bryan McMahon for Walsh 71.
Down: Rory Burns; Peter Fegan, Finn McElroy, Gerard Collins; Darren O’Hagan (0-01), Niall McParland, Ruairi McCormack; Conor Poland, Anthony Doherty; Caolan Mooney, Liam Kerr, Odhran Murdock; Jack McCartan, Andrew Gilmore (1-02, 0-01f), Pat Havern (1-03).
Subs: Barry O’Hagan for McCartan 21, Pierce Laverty for McCormack 28, McCormack for McElroy 35+2 – h/t, blood, Kevin McKernan for Havern 47, McCormack for Poland 48 – 53, blood, Adam Lynch for Collins 57, Cory Quinn for O’Hagan 63.
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).