Graham Reilly the difference as Meath survive some nervy moments to beat Louth
Meath 0-27 Louth 3-9
A Graham Reilly-inspired Meath dragged his team through some anxious moments in Parnell Park as they advanced to a Leinster semi-final against Kildare in two weeks time.
Captain Reilly kicked seven points from play to ease Meath concerns after they conceded a bizarre second half goal that gave Louth a lifeline.
A misdirected short Paddy O'Rourke kick-out found Louth substitute Ronan Holcroft in the 38th minute but his attempt for a point dropped short and should have presented no danger.
But in backtracking, O'Rourke appeared to lose his bearings and Holcroft's weak shot found an empty net to give Louth a 2-6 to 0-11 lead.
Substitute Conal McKeever followed up with another goal after O'Rourke made an initial block and the Meath defence lived dangerously throughout with James Califf coming off trhe bench to score three fine points.
But their forwards, led by Reilly, oozed class and always looked capable of scoring.
Last year's Christy Ring Cup winning captain James Togher helped himself to five points while debutant Donal Lenihan went one better with six.
But despite all their possession and ability to cut Louth open Meath didn't score a goal.
Their strong finish is at odds however with recent trends and they outscored Louth by 0-14 to 1-0 from the 48th minute on.
Both sides might have two more goals in the opening half. In Meath's case it could well have been four.
As early as the second minute Donal Keogan surged forward and was forced a great block from Craig Lynch. On 12 minutes Cillian O'Sullivan flashed a shot across the goalmouth that went narrowly wide while much later in the half a Bryan McMahon shot crashed off the underside of the crossbar while Graham Reilly lifted a fisted pass just too high for Donal Lenihan after a scorching 60 metre run.
For McMahon's chance Louth corner-back Kevin Carr was black carded for attempting to trip the Meath full-forward.
But Louth had chances of their own. Paraic Smith drew a great save from Paddy O'Rourke on 21 minutes while Anthony Williams shot narrowly over as he went one-to-one with O'Rourke.
Eventually, Louth did break through, winning a penalty on 30 minutes which Jim McEnaney converted after referee Barry Cassidy had allowed an advantage.
In the maelstrom that developed Meath lost full-back Conor McGill to a black card.
Andy McEntee's side led by 0-8 to 0-4 at one stage in the half but were pegged back to 0-10 to 1-6 by the break.
Scorers - Meath: G Reilly 0-7, D Lenihan 0-6 (3fs, 1 45), J Toher (3fs) 0-5, B McMahon, T O'Reilly, R O Coileain all 0-2 each, S Tobin, R Jones, C O'Sullivan all 0-1 each.
Louth: J McEnaney 1-2 (1-0 pen,0-1f), R Holcroft, C McKeever 1-0 each, J Califf 0-3 (1f), R Burns 0-2 (2fs), A Williams, B Duffy 0-1 each.
Meath: P O'Rourke; M Burke, C McGill, D Tobin; P Harnan, D Keogan, S McEntee; B Menton, R Jones; J Toher, C O'Sullivan, E Wallace; G Reilly, B McMahon, D Lenihan. Subs: D McQuillan for McGill (30), R O Coileain for S McEntee (52),C O'Brien for Menton inj (55), T O'Reilly for McMahon (59), S Tobin for O'Sullivan (69).
Louth: C Lynch; P Rath, P Reilly, K Carr; L Dullaghan, J Bingham, D Byrne;T Durnin, J Stewart; A Williams, P Smith, B Duffy; J McEnaney, E O'Connor, R Burns. Subs: K Murphy for Rath inj (19), A McDonnell for Byrne (26), R Holcroft for Carr BC (29), C McKeever for Dullaghan (h-t), J Califf for Durnin (41), R Moore for Smith (69).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)