Meath are set to return to the big boys playground next season as this Tailteann Cuo win sees them guaranteed a place in the Sam Maguire competition.

Meath could consider themselves fortunate to in level at the interval as their goal was of the lucky variety, a high lob an effort for a point hitting the post before dropping down and striking the knee of Downs Pat Havern before nestling in the net.

To add to that Sean Brennan pulled off an excellent stop deflecting a Ryan Johnson shot away with his leg.

But even Brennan should have been beaten on the stroke of half time when Liam Kerr got free in front of goal but blazed over rather than under the bar.

Up until Johnson’s chance the Meath defensive system worked well but then that effort and Kerrs miss illustrated it is still very much a work in progress.

The Royals also had the added bonus of seeing Down play with 14 men for ten minutes after Ceilum Doherty received a 30th minute black card for dragging down Jack Flynn,

What also helped was the effect the freak goal had on Havern who missed two reasonably frees soon after.

The sides departed for the dressing rooms with Meath on 1-3 and Down 0-6

The second period was to see a different story as Meath dominated.

The Ulster side kicked the first two scores of the second half but Meath are nothing if not dogged and scores from Cathal Hickey, Ronan Jones after excellent team work and Jack O Connor moments after he was sprung from the bench saw them ahead by 1-7 to 0-8.

They could have stretched that lead but despite ending up in the net himself Conor Gray failed to get the touch he needed on the ball.

Down narrowed the deficit but a superb O’Connor score extended it once more.

Jack Flynn kicked four second half points the third of which put Meath three clear with eight minutes left.

His fourth came after Meath brought the ball on a tour of Croke Park before it ended up with Flynn who converted,

Down needed a goal but apart from one goalmouth scramble never looked like getting it.

A goal did arrive but at the other end Jack O’Connor finding the net a score that showed how clinical O’Connor can be as many would have opted for a game sealing point but he went for broke and hit the jackpot.

Colm O’Rourke has insisted that team will come good eventually and on this evidence he may well have called it right.