Kildare break hoodoo with emphatic win over Meath
Kildare 2-16 Meath 0-13
Cian O'Neill's Kildare side progressed to their first Leinster SFC final since 2009 after a deserved win over Meath on a scorching hot evening in Bord Na Móna O'Connor Park in Tullamore.
The season is shaping up well for Kildare, who secured promotion to Division 1 ahead of the Royals in the spring. Significantly, this win ended a run of six successive provincial semi-final losses.
Regardless of how they fare against either Dublin or Westmeath in the final they are now guaranteed a place in the last 12 of the All-Ireland series. Daniel Flynn top scored with 1-4 as Kildare virtually over-ran a very poor Meath side. They led by nine points at the break.
Meath will have to try and regroup for the qualifiers in which they can be drawn against Derry, Laois, Longford or Sligo.
Kildare conceded a point after 11 seconds but thereafter dominated the first half in which the opening free wasn't awarded until the 14th minute - there was only nine frees in the period.
Meath's difficulties stemmed primarily from their inability to win Paddy O'Rourke's kickouts which he surprisingly continued to mostly kick long despite the dominance of Kildare's midfielders Kevin Feely and Tommy Moolick over Bryan Menton and Ronan Jones in front of 12,702 in Tullamore.
The Royals only managed to win nine of their 21 restarts; the Meath full-back line was also in trouble with Cathal McNally roasting Donnacha Tobin. By the end of the first quarter McNally had scored 1-3 from play as Meath trailed by six.
At half-time Kildare were nine points in front (1-10 to 0-4) and this didn't reflect their overall dominance as they kicked 10 wides compared to three for Meath. Indeed, they should have had a second goal on the stroke of half time.
Niall Kelly backed himself to score from 13 metres with Daniel Flynn loose inside him. Meath's tactical decision not to pack their defence back-fired badly as Kildare managed to create space in the crucial D sector and their full forward line of McNally, Daniel Flynn and Paddy Brophy scored 1-7 from play.
Meath rarely threatened at the other end, though the excellent Mick O'Grady executed one brilliant block on Padraic Harnan. But overall it was a woeful first-half effort from the Royals, though Donal Lenihan did score two decent points from play.
Feely missed a straight-forward free on the resumption and Lenihan replied with two points on the spin before setting up half-time substitute Ruairí Coileáin for another score and when the latter hit his second point in the 42nd minute the margin was down to five.
Meath were noticeably more aggressive in the tackle after the break but it was at the expense of giving away frees and before long their old problem of not securing their kickouts resurfaced. Kildare settled themselves with points from Feely (free) and Flynn.
Meath midfielder Bryan Menton boomed over two long-range points but Kildare were doing enough to keep them at bay. The substitution of Royals captain Graham Reilly - who was their man-of-the-match against Louth - in the 55th minute underlined Meath's difficulties.
The size of Kildare's lead meant they could withdraw 13 players behind the ball and they kept the scoreboard ticking when Flynn hit his fourth point from play and substitute Eamon Callaghan registered.
And any remote doubt about the outcome vanished three minutes from end when the impressive Flynn punched a lobbed pass from David Slattery to the net.
Scorers - Kildare: D Flynn 1-4; C McNally 1-3; K Feely 0-5 (4f); P Brophy 0-2; E Callaghan, N Flynn (1f) 0-1 each. Meath: D Lenihan 0-5 (2f); R Ó Coileáin 0-3; B Menton 0-2; J Toher, S McEntee, M Burke 0-1 each.
Kildare: M Donnellan; O Lyons, M O'Grady, D Hyland; K Cribbin, E Doyle, J Byrne; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly, D Slattery; C McNally, D Flynn, P Brophy. Subs: E Callaghan for Brophy (49), F Dowling for Moolick (59), C Healy for McNally (61), P Kelly for D Hyland (65), N Flynn for Byrne, E Bolton for Doyle (both 69).
Meath: P O'Rourke; C McGill, D Keogan, D Tobin; P Harnan, M Burke, S McEntee; B Menton, R Jones; J Toher, C O'Sullivan, E Wallace; G Reilly, B McMahon, D Lenihan. Subs: J McEntee for Toher (28), R O Coileain for Wallace (HT), B Conlon for Jones (46), T O'Reilly for McMahon (51), S Tobin for Reilly (56), A Douglas for O'Sullivan (68).
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).
Sunday Indo Sport