O'Reilly gets Royals over the line against Lilies
Meath 2-14 Kildare 0-18
Kildare's brave comeback fell just short as Meath reversed the result of last year's final to lift the trophy in Croke Park yesterday.
Meath led by eight points with 15 minutes to go, but with nothing left to lose, and with legendary GAA figure Johnny Doyle brought into the action, Kildare threw everything forward to cut the gap back to one in injury time.
Kildare even won a free inside the Meath '45' late on, but from near the sideline Pádraig Nash elected to play the free short and try to engineer a score rather than taking on a shot. From there Meath turned over possession and broke forward to win a free, from which Frank O'Reilly kicked the match-clinching score.
The early stages of the game were closely contested, but the crucial period came when Ruairí Ó Coileáin and Kevin Ross scored goals in the 13th and 14th minutes.
That quickfire double gave Meath a seven-point lead and that was a buffer that they managed to keep until Kildare's last hurrah.
They led 2-7 to 0-7 at half-time and really should have put the game to bed in the first 10 minutes of the second period, but when they failed to take three clear goalscoring opportunities, Kildare sensed their chance.
Jack Robinson was a thorn in Meath's side throughout the game and he led the Kildare comeback and finished with seven points, but his efforts were in vain and it was Meath celebrating at the end.
Scorers - Meath: R Ó Coileáin, K Ross 1-2 each; F O'Reilly 0-5 (3f, 1'45); J Scully 0-2; J Cassidy, D Quin, S Coogan 0-1 each. Kildare: J Robinson 0-7; P Nash 0-4 (4f); B Noone, S O'Rourke 0-2 each; J Bambrick, M Grace, E Lawless 0-1.
MEATH - A McDermott; D Gibney, M Flood, M Callaghan; C McConnell, J Cassidy, S Reilly; R Clarke, D Quinn; R Ó Coileáin, F O'Reilly, J Scully; O Meehan, R Farrelly, K Ross. Subs: D Finney for Farrelly, h/t; S Coogan for Meehan, 42; S Claire for Ross, 60; G Duane for Gibney, 60+1.
KILDARE - T Kinsella; D Malone, C O'Shea, G Scanlon; O Dunne, M Grace, O Whelan; D Grehan, J Bambrick; E Lawless, S Hanafin, P Nash; J Robinson, Mark Nolan, N Murphy. Subs: S O'Rourke for Nolan, h/t; J Doyle for Murphy, 37; C Jaimeson for Whelan, 39; R Casey for Dunne, 48; M Grehan for Hanafin; B Noone for Grehan, 53.
REF - C Dwyer (Offaly)