Bryan Menton hits brace as Meath too good for Laois

Bryan Menton scores the first goal of the game. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Meath 3-13 - 0-11 Laois

Joint-captain Bryan Menton blasted two goals as Meath capped a breakthrough season with a big win at Croke Park to secure a return to the Leinster SFC final.

The powerful midfielder crashed home a goal in the 31st minute to put Meath into a lead they wouldn't relinquish and his second with nine minutes to go killed the contest.

Donal Keogan, Meath's other joint-captain, was also influential and won a penalty in first-half stoppage time that Michael Newman converted as the Royal County made it three wins from three in the Championship.

There was a thrilling full Championship debut too from 21-year-old forward James Conlon who scored five points from play.

The St Colmcilles man, an All-Ireland intermediate final goalscorer two years ago, was rewarded with a start after hitting three points as a sub against Carlow and didn't let boss Andy McEntee down.

Four of his points came in the first-half when Meath needed leadership in a tense game and his fifth came in the second-half as they piled on the pressure and broke the spirit of 2018 finalists Laois.

The 11-point winning margin flattered Meath who were fortunate that Laois struck 10 wides overall and failed to convert four good goal chances in the second-half.

Paul and Donie Kingston, Colm Murphy and Kieran Lillis all failed to hit the net in that second period.

Meath, who earned promotion to Division 1 of the National League during spring, are through to a first final since 2014 and are also just one win away from making the Super 8s series.

Michael Newman scores a penalty. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Michael Newman scores a penalty. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Yet they'll feel they can improve with the 2010 Leinster champions fortunate enough to be 2-10 to 0-7 up at half-time.

Laois were on top for much of the half but hit six wides and dropped a number of shots short, prompting boss John Sugrue to take off Evan O'Carroll and bring on Donie Kingston.

It was Kingston that kicked two points immediately after the restart, reducing the gap to just three points.

Laois only added two more points after that, however, as Meath opened up with their first form, reeling off a series of points from Newman, Cillian O'Sullivan, Bryan McMahon and Conlon before Menton's second goal arrived.

 Meath's Donal Keogan and Stephen Attride of Laois. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Meath's Donal Keogan and Stephen Attride of Laois. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Sub Graham Reilly was influential for Meath too while Keogan, wearing number six, finished out the game in attack and helped himself to a rare point.

Scorers for Meath: B Menton 2-0, J Conlon 0-5, M Newman 1-1 (1-0pen, 0-1f), C O'Sullivan, B McMahon 0-2 each, G Reilly, S Lavin, D Keogan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Laois: D Kingston 0-4 (0-2f), E O'Carroll 0-3 (0-3f), C Murphy 0-2, D O'Reilly, R Munnelly 0-1 each.

Meath: A Colgan; S Lavin, C McGill, S Gallagher; D Keogan, R Ryan, G McCoy; B Menton, A Flanagan; B Brennan, B McMahon, J McEntee; C O'Sullivan, M Newman, J Conlon.

Subs: G Reilly for McCoy 48, S McEntee for Flanagan 52, S Tobin for Brennan 55, T O'Reilly for Newman 64, T McGovern for Gallagher 66, E Devine for Menton 69.

Laois: G Brody; S Attride, D Booth, G Dillon; S O'Flynn, R Pigott, P O'Sullivan; J O'Loughlin, K Lillis; D O'Reilly, C Boyle, D O'Connor; C Murphy, E O'Carroll, P Kingston.

Subs: D Kingston for O'Caroll 30, M Scully for Boyle 46, T Collins for O'Flynn 54, E Lowry for O'Reilly 58, R Munnelly for O'Connor 58, B Quigley for Lillis 64.

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).

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