Leinster Senior Football Championship Semi-Final
KILDARE 2-16 MEATH 0-13
By Paul Keane at O’Connor Park, Tullamore
Cathal McNally’s early scoring spree set Kildare on their way to a big win in Tullamore and their first Leinster SFC final appearance since 2009.
The corner-forward from Johnstownbridge scored 1-3 in the first-half alone as Cian O’Neill’s men virtually wrapped up victory by half-time at O’Connor Park.
Expectant Meath fans flocked to the Offaly venue in the hope that new manager Andy McEntee could reawaken the sleeping giant of Leinster football but were badly let down.
Kildare led 1-10 to 0-4 at half-time and retained that nine-point advantage at full-time – one less than their 10-point win over Meath in the league – as Daniel Flynn added a 68th minute goal and finished with 1-4.
The result secured Kildare’s place in the July 16 provincial final at Croke Park and they will expect to meet holders and back to back All-Ireland champions Dublin who are due to play Westmeath in the other semi-final.
It’s the latest big win from Kildare who secured promotion to Division 1 of the Allianz league during spring and then hammered Laois in their Championship opener.
They conceded the opening point of the game to James Toher of Meath after Bryan Menton won the ball at the throw-in.
But Meath only scored another three points in the entire half as Kildare took over and dominated the half.
McNally had his 1-3 racked by the 19th minute and the haul included an expertly taken 13th minute goal when he slipped away from Donnacha Tobin after a long ball in from David Hyland.
From there, the likes of ex-Aussie Rules player Paddy Brophy and former soccer professional Kevin Feely, who pushed Flynn close for the Man of the Match award, both added to the tally with a brace of points each.
It told a tale of the lack of cut and thrust in the game that the game’s first free-kick wasn’t awarded until the 14th minute and Meath didn’t force a free until the 23rd minute.
James Toher actually opened the scoring for Meath after just 12 seconds but they only added three more points, two of which came from Donal Lenihan, and trailed by nine at the break.
Meath responded with four points in a row after the restart to hint at a revival. Lenihan hit two of those and sub Ruairi O Coileain got the other two to cut Kildare’s lead down to 1-10 to 0-8.
But that was as good as it got for the 2010 provincial champions as Kildare pulled clear again with points from Feely and Flynn which extended their lead.
Eamonn Callaghan added a point after coming on as a sub and Flynn got the goal his excellent performance deserved when he flicked to the net in the 68th minute after David Slattery’s ball in.
Scorers for Kildare: Daniel Flynn 1-4, Cathal McNally 1-3, Kevin Feely 0-5 (0-4f), Paddy Brophy 0-2, Eamonn Callaghan 0-1, Neil Flynn 0-1 (0-1f).
Scorers for Meath: Donal Lenihan 0-5 (0-2f), Ruairi O Coileain 0-3, Bryan Menton 0-2, James Toher 0-1, Shane McEntee 0-1, Mickey Burke 0-1.
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Mick O’Grady, Ollie Lyons, David Hyland; Keith Cribbin, Eoin Doyle, Johnny Byrne; Kevin Feely, Tommy Moolick; Fergal Conway, Niall Kelly, David Slattery; Cathal McNally, Daniel Flynn, Paddy Brophy. Subs: Eamonn Callaghan for Brophy (49), Fionn Dowling for Moolick (59), Chris Healy for McNally (61), Peter Kelly for Hyland (65), Neil Flynn for Byrne (69), Emmet Bolton for Doyle (69).
MEATH: Paddy O’Rourke; Conor McGill, Donal Keogan, Donnacha Tobin; Pauric Harnan, Mickey Burke, Shane McEntee; Bryan Menton, Ronan Jones; James Toher, Cillian O’Sullivan, Eamon Wallace; Graham Reilly Bryan McMahon, Donal Lenihan. Subs: James McEntee for Toher (28), Ruairi O Coileain for Wallace (h/t), Brian Conlon for Jones (47), Tomas O’Reilly for McMahon (51), Sean Tobin for Reilly (56), Alan Douglas for O’Sullivan (69).
Ref: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).