Meath hold off Kildare to win title
Leinster Junior Football Championship Final: Meath 2-14 Kildare 0-18
Meath captured their second provincial junior crown in three years when holding off Kildare's late challenge in the curtain-raiser at Croke Park on Sunday.
An All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Galway now awaits Davy Nelson's side who led by eight points at the three quarter way mark before having that lead whittled down to the minimum deep into added time.
However the Royals managed to hold out in a tense finish and Frank O'Reilly hit the insurance score in the last action after a Kildare attack had been broken up.
Two goals in the space of 90 seconds in the opening quarter ultimately decided the issue as it gave Meath a cushion they held onto until the finish.
Navan O'Mahonys Ruairi O Coileain was a late addition to the starting 15 for Meath and he had a major influence on proceedings. O Coileain who recently rejoined the senior panel after a two year absence struck for his side's opening goal on 12 minutes, producing a fine finish after breaking clear of the Kildare cover.
That goal was quickly followed by another from Kevin Ross who found a gap to squeeze the ball past Kildare keeper Tom Kinsella and it left Meath leading 2-4 to 0-3. Meath eventually settled for a 2-7 to 0-7 interval lead.
The game was end to end stuff throughout with both sides creating an abundance of chances. O Coileain might have had the ball in the net in the opening minute but somehow Colin O'Shea got back to clear off the line with his keeper beaten.
Kildare led for the only time after centre back Mark Grace pointed to leave it 0-2 to 0-1 after three minutes. Jack Robinson went close to finding the net for the Lilywhites on seven minutes but Meath keeper Adam McDermott got down to save.
At the other end a goal chance presented itself to Sean Reilly but he shot straight at keeper Kinsella. Frank O'Reilly shot three opening half points while Jason Scully was on target with a fine effort from long range.
Scully added to the tally shortly after the break while O'Reilly was also on target but Meath continued to squander goal opportunities.
Kildare brought on former senior star Johnny Doyle in an effort to improve their attacking options but it was Meath who stretched their lead further, 2-11 to 0-9.
The accuracy of Jack Robinson from play and Padraig Nash from frees gradually brought them closer.
Kildare's late surge in the closing stages stemmed from their midfield supremacy and the contributions of substitutes Barry Noone and Shane O'Rourke.
When Nash converted a free in the third of four added minutes it left them just a point in arrears. They then pressed for an equaliser but Meath managed to hold out.
MEATH: Adam McDermott; Darren Gibney, Michael Flood, Cathal McConnell; James Cassidy 0-1, Morgan Callaghan, Sean Reilly; Robin Clarke, Danny Quinn 0-1; Ruairi O Coileain 1-2, Frank O'Reilly 0-5 (2f, 1'45), Jason Scully 0-2; Oran Meehan, Robbie Farrelly, Kevin Ross 1-2 (0-1f). Subs: Darren Finney for Farrelly (h-t), Stephen Coogan 0-1 for Meehan (42), Sean Clare for Ross (60), Gerard Duane for Gibney (62).
KILDARE: Tom Kinsella; Darragh Malone, Colin O'Shea, Gavin Scanlon; Omar Dunne, Mark Grace 0-1, Owen Whelan; Daniel Grehan 0-1, Jack Bambrick; Eoghan Lawless 0-1, Seamus Hanafin, Padraig Nash 0-4f; Jack Robinson 0-7, Mark Nolan, Niall Murphy. Subs: Shane O'Rourke 0-2 for Nolan (h-t), Johnny Doyle for Murphy (37), Conor Jameson for Whelan (38), Ryan Casey for Dunne (48), Mark Grehan for Hanafin (51), Barry Noone 0-2 for D Grehan (53).
REF: Chris Dwyer (Offaly)