Royals kick it long to party like it’s 1999

Meath 0-18 Wexford 0-13

Royals kick it long to party like it’s 1999

They never truly go away, do they?

The Royals may not be the fearsome proposition of old but they have made themselves relevant again by harking back to olden times when football was a less complicated affair, eschewing massed defence and intricate attacking moves.

Meath kick it long from kick-outs and open play, they trust their midfield men and the six shirts around them to secure enough possession and, in Wexford, they found a side more than happy to trade like with like.

They both played football like it was 1999.

It made for a game that was easy enough on the eye but this was football as fast food: easily digestible, soon forgotten and it was so in part because of an utter absence of physicality and intensity.

Down and Donegal it was not.

“Good to get a win, second half we kicked on,” said Meath manager Mick O‘Dowd. “It took us a while [to get going] actually, a bit of nervousness in some of our players or something.

“In the first half we knew we definitely weren’t in the place we needed to be to win the game. I think we stepped it up all over the pitch in the second half so happy enough now to be in a Leinster final.”

Ultimately, Wexford couldn’t live with the tit-for-tat nature of a contest that ebbed and flowed from one end to the other and the nine frees scored by Michael Newman — half his side’s total — was testament to the pressure exerted on the losing defence.

Newman played his part from open play too, but the driving force behind Meath’s success was Graham Reilly, revelling in the sort of carefree role that most modern half-forwards would dearly love.

Reilly’s marker, Brian Malone, managed two points from play in the first half, but his opposite number ran riot, literally, throughout the afternoon as he drove constantly at a Wexford defence that never worked out how to stop him.

Malone was switched off the No 12 long before the finish but Adrian Flynn, another wing-back who makes it a point of operating on both sides of the halfway line, found the task just as onerous.

As he did against Wicklow in the quarter-final, Reilly scored four points from play, but another quartet of Meath’s scores arrived after he had been fouled or had played the final pass.

He will be a marked man against Dublin.

Stephen Bray was a close second best in terms of impact, claiming two points of his own and being heavily involved in another four, but the full-forward’s slow start was emblematic of his team’s as a whole.

Wexford, as they had done in their previous outing against Louth in Drogheda, produced the majority of their football in the opening 35 minutes, but were undone by a carelessness in the final third.

Ten times they sent a ball wide or short of the target in that period and, by the interval, their reward was a mere one-point lead.

Wexford restarted by kicking the first two points but the desperation they must have felt at Reilly’s power drives was there for all to see when David Murphy dragged him down around the waist as their tormentor-in-chief bore down on goal after 41 minutes.

Meath were level for the first time in well over half-an-hour by the 46th minute, took the lead for the first two minutes later and the only point at which they looked like squandering that advantage came with a Ciaran Lyng shot that was tipped over the bar by Paddy O’Rourke.

One suspects the Skryne netminder will be far busier in a fortnight as, for all Meath’s success in pushing forward these last two days, they could leak scores at a biblical rate against Dublin.

“I’d say there’s more improvement to come, or there will certainly need to be,” said O‘Dowd. “We are in a Leinster final now and looking forward to it. There is a big prize at the end of it. We will prepare well over the next two weeks and be ready for it.”

Scorers for Meath: M Newman 0-9 (9f), G Reilly (0-4), P Byrne, S Bray (0-2 each); E Wallace (0-1).

Scorers for Wexford: C Lyng (0-5, three frees); B Brosnan (0-3, two frees); B Malone (0-2); A Flynn; PJ Banville (free); R Barry (0-1 each).

Meath: P O’Rourke; B Menton, K Reilly, D Keoghan; P Harnan, C King, S Kenny; B Meade, C Gillespie; P Byrne, D Carroll, G Reilly; E Wallace, S Bray, M Newman.

Subs: C Lenhihan for King (41); J Sheridan for Wallace (48); P Gilsenan for Byrne (52); A Tormey for Meade (60); B McMahon for G Reilly (71).

Wexford: A Masterson; M Furlong, G Molloy, R Tierney; B Malone, D Murphy, A Flynn; D Waters, R Quinlivan; PJ Banville, C Lyng, A Doyle; S Roche, R Barry, B Brosnan.

Subs: J Holmes for Doyle ; P Byrne for Roche (both 53); K Gore for Banville (60); C Carty for Quinlivan (67); K O’Grady for Brosnan (69).

Referee: M Deegan (Laois).

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