ALTHOUGH KILKENNY side Thomastown eventually justified their favouritism at Navan's Pairc Tailteann, they were given a stiff test by their Meath opponents.
Rathmolyon were competitive all the way and it was not until conceding two late goals that their hopes of causing a major upset died.
Although without top scorer Mickey Cole (abroad on army duty), they led by 0-3 to 0-2 after 10 minutes.
However, a lack of scoring power – Rathmolyon had only two marksmen and only managed a point from play – made matters difficult for them.
Thomastown would have won by more but for a string of missed chances with their chief scorer, Michael Donnelly, off target from a few frees.
Rathmolyon's only score from play, by Gary Cole, edged them ahead before Thomastown reeled off the next four scores.
Outstanding captain John Joe Farrell struck two of those and his side held a 0-8 to 0-4 interval advantage.
Cole reduced the deficit from a '65' soon after the resumption before Thomastown responded to lead by five points on three occasions, and Farrell made the margin six for the first time with as many minutes left.
Rathmolyon were thrown a lifeline when substitute Tom Henderson, son of former Kilkenny All-Ireland winner Pat, was fouled for a penalty which Cole blasted to the net.
However, Thomastown responded with another substitute, Adrian Burke, finishing to the net on 59 minutes and Thomas O'Hanrahan adding a second goal in stoppage-time.
SCORERS – Thomastown: M Donnelly 0-6 (5f, 1 '65') T O'Hanrahan 1-2, JJ Farrell 0-4 (1f), A Burke 1-0, D Walsh 0-1. Rathmolyon: G Cole 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-2f), J Farrell 0-4f.
THOMASTOWN – D Walsh; S Mahony, S Lanigan, B Murphy; B Whelan, P O'Hanrahan, R O'Hara; D Walsh, D Lanigan; D Walsh, M Donnelly, D Burke; T O'Hanrahan, JJ Farrell, D Prendergast. Subs: S Waugh for Burke (44), E Tennyson for Murphy (46), M Mahony for Prendergast (49), A Burke for D Lanigan (54).
RATHMOLYON – J Gantley; A McEnroe, G Whelan, N Cole; M Lynch, A Fagan, E Regan; N Fagan, T Cosgrave; J Fagan, T Lynch, G Cole; J Farrell, K Fagan, G Doherty. Subs: D Morgan for Doherty (40), T Henderson for Lynch (49).
REF – G McGrath (Dublin)