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A few late touches of Devine inspiration rescue Royals

1997 Leinster semi-final replay

Meath 2-20

Kildare 3-17

There was almost an innocent beauty to the way these teams went about their business in the middle game of a trilogy that illuminated this championship so clearly.

By end of season, the footballers of Meath and Kildare had left such an imprint that the All Star selectors, however controversial it may have been, felt compelled to devote one third of their team to two teams who didn't escape their province that summer.

Meath were reigning All-Ireland champions and had dispatched Dublin in an earlier round before Kildare held them to a 1-9 to 0-12 draw.

But this second game took on a life of its own with drama and exhaustive effort even extending to the referee, with Longford's Pat O'Toole forced out through cramp and replaced by John Hannon on a humid, muggy day.

In many respects it will be remembered for Meath's double comeback in normal and extra-time.

Their reputation for stirring fightbacks had been forged earlier in the decade during the 1991 four-match series with Dublin but this was right up there with anything produced.

Kildare, managed again by Mick O'Dwyer after his two-year break, led by 1-7 to 0-7 at the interval and were 2-9 to 0-10 ahead eight minutes after the restart with Niall Buckley dominant at midfield.

Graham Geraghty was sent off but Meath rallied. Trevor Giles scored a penalty, had another penalty saved by Christy Byrne but got a touch in the dying moments to bat home an equalising goal and force extra-time.

Kildare, energised by their own quarter-final win over Laois with 13 men, summoned fresh impetus to move six points clear, 3-17 to 2-14, by the end of the first period of extra-time and they looked to have driven a spear through Royal hearts.

But one of the most extraordinary contributions from a substitute in any game had yet to manifest itself as Jody Devine (pictured), for so long a peripheral influence on Sean Boylan's teams, burst to life with a succession of top-quality long-range points to push Meath back in front again.

They managed seven successive points in all, Devine hitting the target in 91st, 92nd 96th and 100th minutes, each one better than the next, to push Meath one point clear.

Out on their feet, there was still a last-ditch effort left from Kildare and Paul McCormack, only into the action six minutes earlier, got a touch to fist an equaliser five minutes into injury-time to send it to a third match.

Meath were critical of the refereeing performance but for the 54,290 spectators they knew they had witnessed something really special.

Scorers – Meath: T Giles 2-8 (1-0 pen, 5fs), J Devine 0-4, B Reilly 0-3, T Dowd , O Murphy 0-2 each, G Geraghty 0-1.

Kildare: P Gravin 0-6 (2fs), E McCormack, N Buckley (1f) 0-4 each, T Harris, B Murphy, W McCreery 1-0 each, D Earley, M Lynch, P McCormack all 0-1 each.

Meath – C Martin; M O'Reilly, D Fay, D Curtis; P Reynolds, E McManus, C Coyle; J McGuinness, J McDermott; T Giles, T Dowd, G Geraghty; PJ Gillic, B Reilly, O Murphy. Subs: M O'Connell for McManus, N Nestor for McGuinness, J Devine for Gillic, E Kelly replaced Geraghty as the 15th man at the end of normal time, J McGuinness for Coyle, E McManus for O'Reilly, K Cahill for McGuinness.

Kildare – C Byrne; M Ryan, D Dalton, S Dowling; A Rainbow, G Ryan, K Doyle; N Buckley, W McCreery; E McCormack, D Kerrigan, T Harris; P Gravin, M Lynch, B Murphy. Subs: D Earley for McCreery, B Fahy for Harris, P McCormack for Doyle.

Irish Independent