Royals get job done
The Championship: Meath 3-13 Laois 0-11
It wasn't a display that will have Dublin quaking in their boots, but Meath got the job done in methodical fashion in this Leinster SFC semi-final that was low in excitement at Croke Park on Sunday.
It will be the Royals' first provincial final appearance since 2014 when Dublin had 16 points to spare at the finish.
Meath didn't trail at any stage throughout the game, but they struggled for long stretches to assert their authority and were fortunate that Laois lacked a killer instinct at times when there were goal chances for the taking.
There were two changes in personal from the team announced on Saturday morning with Ronan Ryan coming in at centre back as an indirect replacement for Sean Tobin and James Conlon being handed his first championship start instead of Thomas O'Reilly.
Both played crucial roles in the victory with Conlon in inspirational form in attack, finishing with a tally of five points, all from play.
Four of those scores arrived in the opening half when the game was very much in the balance and indeed the St Colmcille's man could have had a bigger haul, but he left a couple of efforts short of the target.
However Conlon picked up from where he left off in the quarter final when scoring three points after being sprung from the bench against Carlow and was a breath of fresh air throughout.
Ryan at centre back was another of the success stories for Andy McEntee's side, producing a solid display throughout.
It also released Donal Keogan to the wing and the Rathkenny man revelled in the position and proved a constant attacking threat throughout.
Then there was the outstanding contribution from midfielder Bryan Menton who struck for two goals with both finishes out of the top drawer.
A worry though ahead of the final showdown with Dublin was the ease with which the Laois attack broke through the Meath cover at times, though they were unable to capitalise due to some poor finishing as well as a couple of outstanding saves from Andy Colgan at crucial stages of the game.
The opening quarter was a very low key affair with corner back Seamus Lavin pointing Meath into the lead on 90 seconds and Laois having to wait until the 15th minute when Evan O'Carroll pointed a free.
O'Carroll had earlier chances but was wide on two occasions and he also dropped two efforts short.
He was seen as a major threat but his indifferent form continued as the half wore on.
He did manage to convert two further frees but he was eventually called ashore on the half hour mark.
With Conlon accounted for four points the sides were level at 0-5 each when Menton took a pass from Cillian O'Sullivan and firmly planted the ball in the net on 30 minutes.
Meath struck for a second goal in first half added time following a foul on Donal Keogan as he contested a high delivery from Mickey Newman in the Laois goalmouth.
Newman dispatched the resultant penalty to leave it 2-6 to 0-7 at the break.
The second half was just a minute old when Andy Colgan was forced to bat away a goal effort from Paul Kingston.
Colm Murphy also blasted an effort off the crossbar as the Meath goal came under increased pressure.
However Donie Kingston who had replaced O'Carroll added two points to the Laois tally before Newman had Meath off the mark from a free on 50 minutes.
Kingston's fourth point left it 2-8 to 0-10 on 54 minutes but Meath turned up the heat after that with points from Cillian O'Sullivan, Bryan McMahon and Conlon.
Then came Meath's third goal when Menton took a pass from Shane McEntee and finished with aplomb on 61 minutes.
That put the game well beyond the reach of the Laois men and Meath added further points from Graham Reilly and Donal Keogan before the end.
MEATH: Andy Colgan; Seamus Lavin 0-1, Shane Gallagher, Conor McGill; Donal Keogan 0-1, Ronan Ryan, Gavin McCoy; Bryan Menton 2-0, Adam Flanagan; Cillian O'Sullivan 0-2, Bryan McMahon 0-2, James McEntee; Ben Brennan, Mickey Newman 1-1 (1-0 pen, 1f), James Conlon 0-5. Subs: Graham Reilly 0-1 for McCoy (48), Shane McEntee for Flanagan (52), Sean Tobin for Brennan (54), Thomas O'Reilly for Newman (63), Thomas McGovern for Gallagher (66), Ethan Devine for Menton (68).
LAOIS: Graham Brody; Stephen Attride, Denis Booth, Gareth Dillon; Sean O'Flynn, Robert Pigott, Patrick O'Sullivan; John O'Loughlin, Kieran Ellis; Daniel O'Reilly 0-1, Conor Boyle, Damien O'Connor; Paul Kingston, Colm Murphy 0-2, Evan O'Carroll 0-3 f. Subs: Donie Kinston 0-4 (2f), for O'Carroll (30), Martin Scully for Boyle (45), Trevor Collins for O'Flynn (54), Eoin Lowry for O'Reilly (58), Ross Munnelly 0-1 for O'Connor (58), Brendan Quigley for Lillis (64).
REF: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)