Meath pay the ultimate price in score feast
Galway 7-17 Meath 5-22
It is difficult to know where to start following this thrill-a-minute All-Ireland JF semi-final at Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon, on Saturday.
However, when all the superlatives are scraped away one cold statistic remains. Meath let slip a 12-point advantage and eventually paid the price after extra time as Galway marched on to a final meeting with holders Kerry for the second successive year.
The Royals had this game in the bag on numerous occasions throughout the 80 minutes despite the concession of some of the most bizarre goals ever seen at county level.
They held a seven-point lead heading into the final quarter of normal time and were still three clear as the clocked ticked towards the end of five added minutes. However, they just didn't know how to defend and Galway sub Enda Tierney hit a low shot to the net to leave it 6-11 to 4-17 and send the game to extra time.
The goal deluge continued in the opening half of additional time and as the sides changed ends they were still deadlocked. However, it was the Tribesmen who out-scored their opponents three points to two in the final 10 minutes to win by the minimum.
Despite the agonising defeat a number of Meath players did their prospects of featuring at senior level in the near future no harm following brilliant displays.
Moylagh's Sean Reilly and Oldcastle's Jason Scully stood out, while Castletown's Kevin Ross finished with a personal tally of 2-6.
Meath made a blistering start to proceedings with six points in the opening four minutes. Kevin Ross pointed within a minute and Danny Quinn, Ross, Stephen Coogan, Morgan Callaghan and Oran Meehan all contributed.
When Galway eventually managed a worthwhile attack it ended in a goal for Colm Brennan. Gary Kelly hit in a high delivery which Adam McDermott failed to deal with and Brennan flicked to the net.
That goal didn't deflate Meath, though, and they continued in whirlwind mode as Jason Scully netted on 13 minutes and Sean Reilly three minutes later, and when Ross shot low to the net it left them leading 3-7 to 1-1.
Galway brought on three subs before the break. They struck for a second goal from Padraic O'Donnell but Meath still enjoyed a 3-9 to 2-5 lead at the change of ends.
Danny Quinn increased the lead within 30 seconds of the restart before more calamitous defending led to another Galway goal. Gary Kelly sent in a high delivery which keeper McDermott seemed to have covered, but the Dunshaughlin man completely lost sight of the ball and it ended in the net.
McDermott was called ashore following that mistake, but his replacement Johnny Lynch also endured a torrid time. Nevertheless, Meath responded to that goal almost immediately, with Ross again raising a green flag from a Quinn delivery. The goal tally rose to eight when Kelly converted from the penalty spot on 43 minutes, but Meath still seemed relatively safe when Quinn hit an inspirational point to leave it 4-14 to 4-7.
That lead was reduced when Colm Brennan struck for his second goal and just the minimum separated the teams after Michael Day pointed on 56 minutes.
Meath seemed to have weathered the storm when Scully hit a great score to double the lead and in added time Kieran Slavin pointed to stretch it further. However, Tierney snatched an equalising goal right at the death to send the game to an additional 20 minutes.
Influential substitute Jonathan Ryan pointed Galway ahead for the very first time within 30 seconds of the start of extra time. That lead was short-lived as Ross converted a free and then Michael Flood soloed through for Meath's fifth goal.
Sean Reilly's point left Meath three clear, but it was back level when Brennan completed his hat-trick of goals and it was still level going into the final 10 minutes.
Three points in as many minutes, including Jonathan Ryan's fourth of extra time, left Galway in the ascendancy. Sub Barry O'Connell and Reilly each pointed to bring it back to the minimum.
Galway went down to 14 men after Ryan was black-carded when they had used up all their subs, but they managed to hold out.
GALWAY: Cormac Haslam; Eddie O'Sullivan, Dara O'Ruairc, Thomas Rabbitte; Sean O Curran, Adrian Ward, Padraic O Donnell 1-0; Alan Molloy, Conor Brady 0-1; Sean Denvir 0-1, Michael Day 0-1, Thomas Gleeson 0-1; Padraic Eoin O Currin, Colm Brennan 3-0, Gary Kelly 2-7 (4f). Subs: Enda Tierney 1-1 (0-1 '45) for Brady (15), McDara Geraghty for Ward (22), Jonathan Ryan 0-5 for P O Currin (29), Conor Costello for S O Currin (34), Enda Concannon for Rabbitte (BC 39), Lorcan Molloy for Denvir (46), Denvir for O'Donnell, Brady for Molloy, Aongus O Hiarnain for Gleeson (all e-t).
MEATH: Adam McDermott; Gerard Duane, Michael Flood 1-0, Kieran Slavin 0-1; James Cassidy, Morgan Callaghan 0-1, Sean Reilly 1-2; Robin Clarke, Danny Quinn 0-3; Cathal McConnell, Stephen Coogan 0-6 (3f, 1'45), Jason Scully 1-1; Oran Meehan 0-1, Robbie Farrelly, Kevin Ross 2-6 (3f). Subs: Johnny Lynch for McDermott (38), Sean Clare for Farrelly (47), Darren Gibney for Duane (50), Tommy O'Reilly for Quinn (57), Barry O Connell 0-1 for Coogan (63), Quinn for O'Reilly, Kevin McKeon for Callaghan, Darren Finney for Gibney, Daire Rowe for Meehan (all e-t)
REF: Sean Laverty (Antrim)