The Kingdom only produced their best hurling in the closing stages when nine points in arrears and they cut the deficit to three before conceding a third goal on the stroke of full-time.
It could have been much different for Kerry but they tallied 11 second-half wides and were second best until the final quarter after making a lightning start to proceedings.
Full-forward Shane Nolan, who ended with a personal tally of 1-9, had the ball in the Meath net after just 14 seconds. Kerry though were unable to build on that fine start and it was the home side who led 1-10 to 1-7 at the break.
Meath manager Martin Ennis has already overseen a Christy Ring and Division 2B successes with Meath was he was delighted with this win.
“We were never going to dominate Kerry for 70 minutes. We just had to hope that we were still in the game with 10 minutes to go. We’re delighted with the result, we’re delighted with the win, with the performance.
Some of our top lads probably didn’t perform the way we wanted. But some of the other guys stepped up and that’s a testament to our panel and to the work we’ve put in since last November.”
The Meath goal in the opening half came from a Sean Quigley sideline cut which deceived Kerry keeper Aidan McCabe on 11 minutes.
With Stephen Clynch in fine form, the hosts strengthened their grip on proceedings in the third quarter. They were boosted by a goal from substitute Kevin Keena and they eventually went nine points clear.
Kerry staged a late rally and with Nolan, and substitutes Michael O’Leary and Jack Goulding, making a difference, they gradually trimmed the deficit.
A goal separated the sides after Mikey Boyle found the net in added time and Meath ’keeper Shane McGann had to come to his side’s rescue on two occasions in the last 90 seconds as Kerry went in search of an equalising goal.
First he kept out a goalbound effort from Boyle and then reacted quickly to deny sub Colm Harty.
Meath eventually repelled the barrage and midfielder Anthony Forde went on a surging run before the ball fell to Cathal McCabe who netted to end the Kerry revival.
S Clynch (0-7, 6 frees); S Quigley (1-3, 1-0 sideline); K Keena, C McCabe (1-0 each); A Gannon (0-3); M O’Sullivan (0-2); D Kelly, K Keoghan, A Forde, G McGowan, N Heffernan (0-1 each).
S Nolan (1-9, 6 frees); M Boyle (1-1); M O’Leary (0-2); B Murphy, J Conway, P Lucid, J Goulding, M O’Connor (0-1 each).
S McGann; S Whitty, D Healy, C Reilly; S Brennan, D Kelly, K Keoghan; A Forde, J Keena; S Quigley, S Clynch, J Kelly; G McGowan, M O’Sullivan, A Gannon.
S Geraghty for Healy (13), K Keena for J Kelly (45), N Heffernan for Quigley (55), C McCabe for McGowan (63), P Kelly for Gannon (68).
A McCabe; R Horgan, T Murnane, S Weir; J Buckley, B Murphy, D Dineen; T Casey, P O’Connor; M Boyle, P Kelly, K Carmody; J Conway, S Nolan, P Lucid.
M O’Leary for Kelly (35), J Goulding for Casey (h-t), M O’Connor for Carmody (47), B O’Leary for Lucid (55), C Harty for Conway (67).
S Cleere (Kilkenny)
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