Saturday 21st May 2022
In what was effectively a relegation play-off, Down defeated Meath 2-28 to 2-19 in Ballycran.
The Royals took a slender 0-16 to 2-11 lead into the break at McKenna Park but couldn't go the distance with the Mourne men and have been demoted to the third-tier after five defeats from as many outings.
Down secured their Joe McDonagh Cup status for another year thanks to a 2-28 to 2-19 win over Meath at Ballycran.
Goals from Jack Regan and Chris Reilly helped the Royals lead 2-11 to 0-16 at half-time.
However, Down hit back with two goals in the second half as their strong finish condemned Meath to relegation to the Christy Ring Cup for 2023.
Antrim's loss to Kerry means the Saffrons will meet the Kingdom in the 4 June final at Croke Park.
With Antrim already having sealed their place in the decider after winning their first four games, Kerry ran out 0-29 to 2-21 winners at Corrigan Park to set up a rematch at headquarters as Offaly lost to Carlow.
Needing to win or draw in order to survive, Down would have fancied their chances against a Meath side who had lost all four games prior to Saturday's encounter.
However, despite having surged into a 0-12 to 0-7 lead inside the opening half-hour, Ronan Sheehan's side found themselves behind at the break as Meath ended the first half on a high thanks to Regan's penalty and Reilly's 34th-minute goal.
Down hit four of the first five scores after the resumption to edge back in front but the sides were level until Ryan McCusker goaled for Down. While Regan quickly responded with a free, a second Down goal moved them six points clear as Meath's challenge faded in the closing stages.
|Joe McDonagh Cup table|