Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park
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MEATH BRUSHED OFF the Laois challenge with surprising ease in the Leinster semi-final this afternoon, cantering to a one-sided 11-point victory that not many would have predicted beforehand.
They will play winners of Dublin and Kildare in their first Leinster final since 2014. Five years ago Meath suffered a 3-20 to 1-10 pasting by the Dubs and they’ll be hoping for a better outcome on this occasion.
The Royals recently returned to Division 1 for the first time in 13 years and reaching the provincial decider is another sign of the progress they’ve made under Andy McEntee.
Still, they’ll have to raise their performance level significantly if they’re to avoid a heavy defeat to what’ll most likely be Jim Gavin’s side in two weeks. They hit 12 wides, dropped another five shots short and should have won by far more than the eventual margin.
Laois, bidding to reach their second provincial final in succession, were even more wasteful in front of the posts. They were laboured in attack until the introduction of Donie Kingston, but outside the veteran forward there was little for John Sugrue to be pleased about.
The star forward has yet to start a championship game this summer but he showed his quality after replacing the misfiring Evan O’Carroll.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
When Laois were without the ball, their entire half-forward line dropped deep to release the half-backs as extra defenders. Despite the defensive approach, they were opened up for three goals.
In the first championship meeting between two counties in seven years, James Conlon shone with five points from eight shots for the victors. Bryan Menton powered forward from midfield to bag two well-taken green flags either side of Mickey Newman’s goaled penalty.
It’s back to the drawing board for Laois, who need to win two games in the qualifiers to make the Super 8s.
The opening 20 minutes were well below the quality you’d expect for a provincial semi-final. It was pedestrian stuff, with Laois particularly guilty of missed chances.
O’Carroll, who scored 0-8 against Westmeath the last day out, a had a disastrous start in front of the posts. He shot four wides and dropped another one short before he was called ashore on the half-hour mark.
Meath looked dangerous every time they ran at Laois and had James Conlon in fine form up front. Making his first competitive start for the Royals, he scored 0-4 in the first period.
Menton’s 30th-minute goal arrived after O’Sullivan scorched Gareth Dillon down the flank.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
In stoppage-time, Mickey Newman’s ambitious point attempt was collected by the marauding Donal Keogan, who was fouled as he drove towards goals. Newman dispatched the spot-kick into the top corner, handing Andy McEntee’s side a 2-6 to 0-7 interval lead.
Donie Kingston kicked three scores and Laois blew two goal chances as Kieran Lillis flashed a shot wide and Colm Murphy thundered one off the crossbar. The Royals retook control of the contest and their attackers continued to cause Laois problems.
O’Sullivan curled over two nice efforts while Bryan McMahon and Conlon clipped over a score apiece. Kingston saw a goal chance well-saved by Andrew Colgan and then Meath’s third goal arrived. After a slick move through the hands, Menton slotted his second three-pointer of the afternoon past Graham Brody.
Veteran Graham Reilly kicked a point after his introduction as Meath coasted home.
Scorers for Meath: Bryan Menton 2-0, Michael Newman 1-1 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), James Conlon 0-5, Cillian O’Sullivan, Bryan McMahon 0-2 each, Graham Reilly and Seamus Lavin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Laois: Donie Kingston 0-4 (0-2f), Evan O’Carroll 0-3 (0-3f), Colm Murphy 0-2, Daniel O’Reilly and Ross Munnelly 0-1 each.
1. Andrew Colgan (Donaghmore Ashbourne)
3. Conor McGill (Ratoath)
4. Shane Gallagher (Simonstown Gaels)
2. Seamus Lavin (St Peter’s, Dunboyne)
6. Donal Keogan (Rathkenny)
17. Ronan Ryan Drum Shamhraidh)
7. Gavin McCoy (St Peter’s, Dunboyne)
8. Bryan Menton (Donaghmore Ashbourne)
9. Adam Flanagan (Clonard)
12. Ben Brennan (St Colmcilles)
11. Bryan McMahon (Ratoath)
5. James McEntee (Curraha)
10. Cillian O’Sullivan (Moynalvey)
18. James Conlon (St Colmcilles)
14. Michael Newman (Kilmainham)
19. Graham Reilly (St Colmcilles) for McCoy (48)
20. Shane McEntee (St Peter’s, Dunboyne) for Flanagan (52)
13. Sean Tobin (Simonstown Gaels) for Brennan (54)
15. Thomas O’Reilly (Wolfe Tones) for Newman (64)
26. Thomas McGovern (Domhnach Mor Cill Dheaglain) for Gallagher (66)
23. Ethan Devine (Na Fianna) for Menton (69)
1. Graham Brody (Portlaoise)
2. Denis Booth (The Heath)
3. Mark Timmons (Graiguecullen)
4. Gareth Dillon (Portlaoise)
5. Seán O’Flynn (Courtwood)
6. Colm Begley (Stradbally)
7. Patrick O’Sullivan (Portarlington)
8. John O’Loughlin (St Brigid’s)
9. Kieran Lillis (Portlaoise)
10. Daniel O’Reilly (Graiguecullen)
11. Conor Boyle (Portlaoise)
12. Damien O’Connor (Timahoe)
13. Paul Kingston (Arles-Killeen)
14. Colm Murphy (Portarlington)
15. Evan O’Carroll (Crettyard)
19. Donie Kingston (Arles-Killeen) for O’Carroll (30)
17. Martin Scully (Ballyroan Abbey) for Boyle (46)
18. Trevor Collins (Graiguecullen) for O’Flynn (54)
20. Eoin Lowry (Killeshin) for O’Reilly (58)
21. Ross Munnelly (Arles Kilcruise) for O’Connor (58)
22. Brendan Quigley (Timahoe) for Lillis (64)
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)
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