Braniff helps Down brush Meath aside
Down 0-23, Meath 1-10
DOWN strode into the decider courtesy of this comprehensive victory over Meath in Ballycran.
The home side held the upper hand in the first half despite an early Mark O'Sullivan goal for the visitors, and with Fintan Conway, Ciaran Coulter, Donal Hughes and Paul Braniff all finding the range, Down built up a 0-12 to 1-6 lead at the break.
Meath opened brightly in the second period but it proved a false dawn as the home side, with Conor Woods a driving force from the heart of the defence and Braniff unerringly accurate from frees, took control. And Gerard Monan's side again benefited from their resources on the bench with Kevin McGarry coming on to join Paul Sheehan in grabbing a brace of points.
With the input of their talisman Stephen Clynch limited because of an injury he had been carrying throughout the week – he scored five points as opposed to the 15 he landed in the drawn game – Meath's attacking armoury was largely blunted.
Their cause was not helped when Cormac Reilly and Sean Heavey were dismissed. Down's Paudie Flynn also suffered the ultimate sanction, which means he will now miss the final against Kerry.
Down manager Gerard Monan, while happy with the display, said that Kerry would present a formidable challenge in the final.
"They are a very consistent side that boasts a winning mentality," said Monan. "We will have to take things to the next level for the decider but that's a challenge we will relish."
Scorers – Down: P Braniff 0-8 (7fs), P Sheehan, K McGarry 0-3 each, D Hughes, D Toner, F Conway 0-2 each, C Coulter, G Johnson, J Coyle 0-1 each. Meath: S Clynch 0-5 (4fs), M O'Sullivan 1-1, S Morris, J Kelly, P Durnin, J Meyler 0-1 each.
DOWN – S Keith; M Conlon, P Flynn, P Hughes; F Conway, C Woods, M Ennis; D Hughes, C Coulter; P Sheehan, P Braniff, S Nicholson; D Toner, G Johnston, J Coyle. Subs: K McGarry for Nicholson (40), M Turley for Coyle (60), J McCusker for Toner (65), B Nicholson for Coulter (69)
MEATH – S McGann; D Donoghue, D Healy, C Reilly; J Toher, M Burke, S Heavey; S Donogue, S Morris; E Marsh, S Clynch, J Kelly; P Durnin, M O'Sullivan, P Conneely. Subs: B Slevin for Conneely (55), J Meyler for Donoghue (58), A Gannon for Durnin (66)
Ref – T Carroll (Offaly)