MEATH 5-9 KILDARE 0-15
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
Goal hungry Meath produced a stunning second-half display at Croke Park, coming from six points down to overcome Kildare by nine and secure their return to the Leinster SFC final.
Virtually down and out at half-time after scoring just four first-half points, things looked bleak for Meath but for the second weekend in a row they used goals as their battering ram to success, hitting Kildare for 5-5 in that second period.
Last weekend it was Wicklow that felt the brunt of Meath’s attacking ability as the Royals swooped for 7-14 in Aughrim.
Jordan Morris and Mathew Costello scored goals on their Championship debut in that game and both players were on the mark again early in the second-half to ignite Meath’s comeback.
Cillian O’Sullivan and subs Joey Wallace and Jason Scully hit the net for Meath too as boss Andy McEntee toasted the impact of his bench which produced 2-2.
Whether or not Meath can pull off another huge win to claim a first Leinster title in a decade is the big question now but they certainly have momentum on their side ahead of Saturday’s date.
They will be concerned about their first-half shortcomings but will certainly have made their Leinster final opposition sit up and take notice with that level of firepower in the second-half.
Kildare’s season is over and a bad day at the office ended with a red card dismissal for Shea Ryan.
It was some difference initially from a week ago in Aughrim for Meath who had their win over Wicklow virtually wrapped up by half-time. This time around they trailed by 0-10 to 0-4 and looked in real trouble in a number of areas, particularly their own kick-outs.
Kildare carefully cut off the short kick-out options for Marcus Brennan who was forced to go long to a midfield that was in bother.
Kildare enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and aside from their 10 first-half points also registered eight wides, underlining the amount of opportunities they were setting up.
They cut loose in the 10 minutes before half-time in particular and struck six unanswered points in this period to put clear daylight between the teams.
O’Sullivan was dangerous in attack for Meath and scored a point in the first-half before drawing a fine save from Mark Donnellan.
But it summed up Meath’s woes that the resulting 45-metre kick from Donnellan’s save wasn’t converted.
Morris blasted 3-4 on his Championship debut against Wicklow but was held scoreless from play here until he burst into life with his goal early in the second-half.
Shane Walsh did impress in patches for the 2010 provincial winners, opening the scoring for them and helping to create O’Sullivan’s point.
But that was about it from a Meath attacking perspective in the opening half and Kildare went into the interval in firm control.
Hyland’s ability to burst into space and take possession on his left or right side caused his marker Seamus Lavin all sorts of issues.
Hyland won two frees off Lavin for fouls that were converted and the former underage star escaped Lavin in another straight head to head before the interval, dummying right before darting onto his left and splitting the posts.
Whatever Meath boss McEntee said at half-time certainly did the trick as they were a different team in the second-half.
The goals from Costello and Morris both arrived within two minutes of each other early in second-half to leave just one between them.
All the momentum was with Meath and Kildare were only able to muster 0-5 in the entire second-half, compared to Meath’s 5-5.
Everything about Meath was improved from their ability to retain possession to their tackling and distribution and their lively forwards thrived.
O’Sullivan pounced on a Kildare error in the 45th minute for Meath’s third goal and a combination of Walsh and Ronan Jones forced the Lilies to spill possession again in the 57th minute for a fourth goal, Wallace this time finishing.
There was still time for a fifth late on when Scully got in on the act, accepting a pass from Wallace and rounding goalkeeper Donnellan to complete a memorable day for the 2019 provincial runners up.
Meath scorers: Mathew Costello 1-1, Jordan Morris 1-1 (0-1f), Cillian O’Sullivan 1-1, Joe Wallace 1-0, Jason Scully 1-0, Thomas O’Reilly 0-2, Shane Walsh 0-1, Cathal Hickey 0-1, Shane McEntee 0-1, James Conlon 0-1.
Kildare scorers: Jimmy Hyland 0-5 (0-3f, 0-1m), Darragh Kirwan 0-2, Paddy Brophy 0-2, Daniel Flynn 0-1, Ben McCormack 0-1, Mattie Byrne 0-1, Kevin Flynn 0-1, Fergal Conway 0-1, David Hyland 0-1.
MEATH: Marcus Brennan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, David Toner; Donal Keogan, Ronan Ryan, Mathew Costello; Bryan Menton, Ronan Jones; Cillian O’Sullivan, Bryan McMahon, Shane McEntee; Jordan Morris, Shane Walsh, Thomas O’Reilly. Subs: Cathal Hickey for Ryan, Joey Wallace for O’Reilly, Jason Scully for McMahon all 55, James Conlon for Walsh 68, Eoin Harkin for O’Sullivan 76.
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Eoin Doyle, Mick O’Grady, Mark Dempsey; David Hyland, Con Kavanagh, Kevin Flynn; Shea Ryan, Kevin Feely; Mattie Byrne, Ben McCormack, Paddy Brophy; Fergal Conway, Darragh Kirwan, Jimmy Hyland.
Subs: Daniel Flynn for McCormack 48, Paul Cribbin for Byrne 51, Aaron Masterson for Kavanagh 57, Liam Power for Conway 58, Neil Flynn for Kirwan 60.
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).
Report by GAA.ie