Dead-eye Campbell makes the difference as Lilies fight back
Kildare 2-17 Meath 2-15
A third-quarter surge that yielded a goal and six points without reply boosted Kildare to victory over the holders in the decider at Croke Park yesterday.
The Lilywhites made a tentative start and found themselves 1-2 to no score in arrears within three minutes.
However they gradually worked their way into contention and took control of proceedings when assisted by a stiff breeze in the second half, opening up a five-point lead at one stage.
Meath rallied in the final 10 minutes, reducing the deficit to the minimum but Kildare held out for a deserved win.
A feature of the game was some excellent place-kicking from Kildare keeper Declan Campbell, who landed two long-range frees as well as a '45'.
Meath rocked the Lilies with an early goal from Daire Rowe after Danny Quinn created the opening.
Rowe, Peter O'Connell and Kevin Ross were all prominent for the Royals early on as they built up a 1-5 to 0-2 lead by the ninth minute.
Boosted by two points from Campbell, Kildare settled into the game and a five-point deficit was cut to more manageable proportions when substitute Eoghan Lawless showed a fine turn of pace before firing to the Meath net on 25 minutes.
Not to be outdone, Meath keeper Conor McHugh also converted a '45 as his side outscored their opponents three points to one in the closing stages of the half to lead 1-11 to 1-7 at the break.
It didn't take long for Kildare to wipe out that deficit in the second half and they went ahead for the first time after Eoghan McMonagle set up Mark Nolan, who rounded keeper McHugh before finishing to the net on 39 minutes.
Points from Brian Travers, Conor Murray and Barry Noone strengthened Kildare's grip, leaving them 2-13 to 1-11 ahead.
The half was 19 minutes old before Kevin Ross converted a free to add to Meath's interval tally. Ross then found the net with a low drive to give his side hope and when substitute John Keane pointed on 59 minutes it left the game back in the balance, Kildare ahead by the minimum, 2-16 to 2-15.
Another substitute, Declan Flaherty, scored the insurance point for Kildare in the first of four added minutes. Meath eventually finished with 14 as centre-back Conor Dempsey was dismissed on a second yellow card.
Scorers - Kildare: E Lawless 1-1, M Nolan 1-0, B Noone (2fs), D Campbell (2fs,1 '45'), C Murray (1f) 0-3 each, D Malone 0-2, G Waters, E McMonagle, L Power, B Travers, D Flaherty 0-1. Meath: K Ross (0-1f), D Rowe (0-2fs) 1-3 each, P O'Connell, D Quinn (1f) 0-3 each, C McHugh ('45'), S Clare, J Keane 0-1.
Kildare - D Campbell; K Corrigan, W Burke, C Sharkey; G Waters, E McMonagle, N Sherry; L Power, B Travers; D Malone, M Nolan, K Foley, C Murray, S Hanafin, B Noone.
Subs: E Lawless for Foley (20), T Barron for Sharkey (46), T Dore for McMonagle (BC 48), S Maughan for Hanafin (52), D Flaherty for Noone (52), S O'Leary for Murray (61).
Meath - C McHugh; C O'Rourke, C McPartland, M Flood; N Judge, C Dempsey, T O'Reilly; C Farrell, K Traynor; D Quinn, P O'Connell, C McConnell; K Ross, L Martyn, D Rowe. Subs: J Keane for O'Reilly (36), S Clare for Traynor (37), G Reidy for Flood (38), P Lynch for Rowe (47), E O Donachada for Farrell (53).
Ref - D Sheppard (Dublin).