Graham Reilly’s point for the Royals inside 30 seconds at Páirc Tailteann set them on their way to a 4-19 to 0-13 win over Wicklow and a semi-final place.
The Royals last won the competition in 2016, when they beat Longford in the final, and will face the same opposition again next weekend. Meath will host that game against the Midlanders who they’re also due to face in this year’s Championship.
Meath edged out Carlow in a low-scoring opening game and looked far sharper this time, registering 2-3 without reply in a 15-minute spell during the first-half to put significant daylight between the teams.
David Toner and Donal Lenihan grabbed Meath’s majors as they roared 2-5 to 0-2 ahead of a Wicklow side managed by ex-Royal County coach John Evans.
Meath stretched the gap to 12 points at one stage and led 2-10 to 0-5 at half-time.
The second-half wasn’t as easy on the eye though Meath continued to pile on the points with Sean Tobin, a county medallist with Simonstown, Bryan Menton, Paddy Kennelly and Shane McEntee all on target.
Mark McCabe and sub Joey Wallace both finished with 1-2 apiece and scored late goals to leave Wicklow with nought for their efforts.
Recalled goalkeeper David Gallagher, 37, was between the sticks for Meath while Harry Rooney started at midfield after a year out and Trim’s Luke Moran was in defence following a strong 2017 with the juniors.
McEntee took full advantage of the rule regarding unlimited substitutions and brought on nine players including Darragh Griffin, Conor Dempsey, Liam Ferguson and Skryne’s Eoghan Greene.
Longford are through to the last four after beating Kildare 1-14 to 0-13, Robbie Smyth netting the crucial goal in a surprise win over last year’s Leinster finalists.
Kildare, after losing to Louth in their opening game, needed a big win to progress but it never looked like materialising.
They did lead by 0-9 to 0-8 at half-time but Longford were the better side after the break and Smyth’s goal arrived in the 43rd minute.
He latched onto a long ball from Padraig McCormack and finished at the second attempt after his first shot was parried by Mark Donnellan in the Kildare goals.
At the other end, Paddy Collum pulled off an important save to deny Daniel Flynn a goal for Kildare as Longford held on for an impressive win.
Meanwhile, Offaly will meet Westmeath in a local derby in the last four of the competition after Westmeath’s 3-16 to 1-13 win over Laois.
Offaly hammered Wexford and drew with Dublin last Wednesday evening while Westmeath’s win yesterday ensured top spot for them in Group 4.
Callum McCormack hit a hat-trick of goals for Westmeath. New boss Colin Kelly admitted afterwards that he hasn’t given up hope of luring former captain Paul Sharry back for 2018 following reports that the St Loman’s playmaker may not be involved.