The margin flatters the Kingdom somewhat as the sides were deadlocked 2-14 to 3-11 with a little over five minutes remaining.
But the Kingdom finished in style to claim another championship crown to the delight of manager John Hennessy. “It was a tough battle but, in fairness, our lads displayed tremendous character.
“We retired at half-time just a point in front having played poorly. We then pushed on in the second-half to move six points clear but we allowed them back into it. We were worried when Meath drew level with six minutes left but then the bit of class showed and we hit 2-3 without reply.”
The game was finely balanced at the interval as Kerry held a 2-6 to 1-8 lead thanks to an Eric Leen goal on the stroke of half-time. Kerry dominated the middle third of the pitch thanks to Thomas O’Connor, Barry O’Mahony, Shane Conway and Conor O’Keeffe, with Conway sniping points at will.
Indeed Conway scored a goal after six minutes that was worth the entrance money alone, as he flicked a ball over a defender’s head, rounded him to collect on the bas of his hurley before blasting it to the Meath net.
Three early second-half points by Conway, two from Barry O’Mahony and one each from Eric Leen and corner forward Pádraig O’Mahony saw the Kingdom move 2-13 to 1-11 clear by the end of the third quarter, with Peter Farrell replying with two Meath frees and a superb sideline cut from Sean Coffey. However, Meath got back into the game thanks to two goals from captain Will Flynn to level the contest at 2-14 to 3-11 with just five minutes left.
Kerry then showed their class by responding as champions do with a scrambled goal from Pádraig O’Mahony and superb points from Conway, Colin Sheehy and Padraig O’Mahony before an injury time goal by Gearóid O’Mahony sealed another famous win for Kerry hurling.
So does John Hennessey think Kerry should dip their feet in the waters of the A Grade? “No way,” he replied. “We played the Cork U-17 Development squad about two months ago in a challenge and they beat us 7-14 to 0-18. I think that answers your question. It’s not hurling it’s the physicality of the stronger counties but we are making progress.”
“Everybody played their parts today but I thought Shane Conway and Barry O’Mahony were exceptional. We started back on January 5 preparing for this day and the lads delivered..
S Conway (1-8, 0-4frees), E Leen and P O’Mahony (1-2 each), G O’Mahony (1-0), B O’Mahony (0-3), C Sheehy (0-2).
W Flynn (2-0), P Farrell (0-5 frees), M Mullin (1-1) J Leavy and J McNally (0-2 each), S Coffey (0-1 S/L).
A O’Sullivan; B McAuliffe, L Mullins, P Maunsell; E Murphy, C O’Keeffe, G Fennessy; T O’Connor, E Leen; C Sheehy, B O’Mahony, N O’Mahony; M O’Connor, S Conway, P O’Mahony.
G O’Mahony for G Fennessy (44), M McCarthy for M O’Connor (49), T Quinlan for C Sheehy (60), D Goulding for P O’Mahony (60), C Galway for E Leen (60).
C Ennis; S Coffey, C McNally, B Kelly; J Ryan, B McGowan, J McNally; R Byrne, S Martin; W Flynn, J Leavy, M Mullin; M Cullen, P Farrell, D Gilmartin.
B Dowling for R Byrne (13), D Murtagh for D Gilmartin (37), B Reilly foe C McNally (41), C O Farrell for M Cullen (56).
P Burke (Kilkenny)