Royals rule at second attempt
FAST-FINISHING Meath made no mistake at the second time of asking in this Leinster U-21 quarter final replay at Pairc Tailteann last Wednesday evening.
The outcome was in the balance throughout the opening 50 minutes but then Meath produced a finishing burst to which Louth had no response.
A Cian Doyle point left the minimum between the teams with 10 minutes remaining and at that stage extra-time was a real possibility. Louth did have a chance to draw level but young prodigy Ryan Burns drove a long range free wide of the target.
The hosts hit back almost immediately and captain Neil Shortall landed a long range point to double their advantage. The Louth challenge fizzled out after that as substitute Seamus Mattimoe converted two frees and Bryan McMahon and Barry Dardis had two further points to leave Meath a little flattered by the six point winning margin.
Of course victory came at a cost for Meath as senior star Eamon Wallace hobbled off after just 10 minutes and it was later diagnosed as a knee cruciate injury which will rule the Ratoath man out for the remainder of the season.
Louth could never raise their game to the same intensity of the drawn encounter though they frustrated the Meath men for long periods as they got numbers behind the ball. However they found scores a little more difficult to come by on this occasion, again relying on minor Ryan Burns to keep them in contention.
The Hunterstown star notched six points, five of which came from placed balls and Meath were somewhat more successful in curbing his threat than in the drawn match.
Full forward Conor Grimes caused plenty of havoc on the edge of the square and contributed three points, all from play.
The outcome could have been different though if the Glen Emmets man had found the net 10 minutes into the second half following a great move involving Cian Doyle and Robert Quigley near the end line before the ball fell to Grimes whose goal effort hit a post. Grimes pointed with his second attempt to leave his side trailing by just a point, 0-7 to 1-5. A goal at that stage though could have changed the course of the game.
Overall the game failed to live up to the excitement of the drawn encounter and the first half was a stop-start affair and it was 23 minutes old before the opening score from play arrived.
Previous to that Louth led following two pointed frees from Burns while Bryan McMahon converted two similar efforts at the other end for the eventual winners.
Joey Wallace, younger brother of Eamon, livened up proceedings three minutes before the break when he rounded keeper Nathaniel Cooney and shot to an empty net following good work by his Ratoath club mate Bobby O'Brien.
That left the hosts leading 1-4 to 0-4 at the break.
Seamus Mattimoe who had replaced Eamon Wallace made a big impression and increased the Meath lead with his second point shortly after the restart but Meath found it difficult to shake off their dogged opponents.
Louth lost captain Robert Brodigan to a black card offence but with Burns, scorer of 2-6 in the drawn match, again in excellent scoring form they stayed in touch.
The Wee County reduced the deficit to the minimum on three different occasions but crucially they could never gain parity.
Meath now meet Offaly in a semi-final clash this Wednesday evening in Parnell Park.
MEATH: A Colgan; S Carty, C McGill, D McQuillan; B Power, S Melia, S McEntee; C Sheridan, A Flanagan; N Shortall 0-1, B O'Brien, P Harnan; E Wallace, B McMahon 0-6 (4f), J Wallace 1-0. Subs: S Mattimoe 0-5 (2f) for E Wallace (10), H Rooney for Sheridan (42), C Finn for Power (51), B Dardis 0-1 for J Wallace (59).
LOUTH: N Cooney; E Lafferty, D Campbell, K Lenaghan; D McMahon, P Reilly, S Thornton; R Brodigan, W Campbell; R Quigley, J Stewart, C McKeever; C Doyle 0-1, C Grimes 0-3, R Burns 0-6 (5f). Subs: R Curran for Thornton (18), C Ward for Brodigan (BC 43), R Carr for McKeever (49), K Hearty for Doyle (59).
REFEREE: G Whelan (Wicklow).