LATE goals from Richie Hoban and Martin Fitzgerald proved decisive in Parnell Park yesterday, as Kildare overcame Meath in a gripping decider.
In a scrappy opening, both sides matched each other for points, tying at 0-5 each with 24 minutes of the game gone.
Kildare did threaten to pull away towards the end of the half with two Paul Divilly efforts, but a goal from early replacement Colm O Mealoid at the end of a fine move 31 minutes in gave Cillian Farrell's side a marginal 1-5 to 0-7 lead at the interval.
Points from Divilly and Martin Fitzgerald restored parity to the tie upon the restart, after Stephen Clynch had opened the second-half scoring, and Kildare soon raised their first green flag of the contest, when Tony Murphy flicked brilliantly to the net on 44 minutes.
Meath responded well to this score, however, as points from Clynch (two) and James Kelly drew the sides level once more.
Indeed, the two teams remained inseparable with just seven minutes remaining.
However, it was the Lilywhites who came up with the appropriate response, and goals from Hoban and Fitzgerald helped to seal Kildare's place in Division 2A.
Man of the Match: M Fitzgerald (Kildare)
SCORERS -- Kildare: P Divilly 0-6 (6f), M Fitzgerald 1-2, R Hoban 1-1 (1-1f), T Murphy 1-0, D Butler 0-2 (1f), M Moloney, J Enright 0-1 each; Meath: N Kirby 0-7 (7f), C O Mealoid 1-0, S Clynch 0-3 (3f), S Heavey, J Kelly 0-1 each.
KILDARE -- P Dermody 7; P Reidy 7, F O Muineachain 7, J Doran 7; K Divilly 6, R Hoban 8, N O Muineachain 7; D Butler 7, M Moloney 7; C Kenny 6, P Divilly 7, D Harney 6; M Fitzgerald 8, T Murphy 7, L Quinn 6. Subs: D Smyth for Murphy (25-27, blood sub), J Enright 7 for Quinn (h-t), J O'Malley 6 for K Divilly (47), R Kelly 6 for Harney (49).
MEATH -- S McGann 7; C Reilly 7, D Healy 7, S Morris 6; J Togher 7, P Fagan 7, E Keogh 6; S Clynch 7, S Donoghue 6; S Heavey 6, N Kirby 7, E Marsh 5; J Kelly 7, D Doran 6, P Durnin 6. Subs: C O Mealoid 7 for Marsh (19), C Fitzsimons 6 for Donoghue (42), N Horan 6 for Durnin (48), M Cole 6 for Kelly (64), K Keoghan for Heavey (69).
REF -- E Hasson (Derry).