Kerry 2-8 Meath 1-7
Kerry will meet Cork in an all-Munster All-Ireland football final for the second time in three years, following the Kingdom’s four points win over Meath at Croke Park.
A sixth successive appearance in the decider was achieved more comfortably than the final scoreline would suggest, as the Royals scored their goal through Cian Ward deep into stoppage time.
In front of a crowd of 50,770, Kerry got a dream start when they were awarded a penalty after just three minutes for a foul on Colm Cooper by Anthony Moyles.
Skipper Darran O’Sullivan lost his footing on the greasy surface as he took the kick, but still managed to beat paddy O’Rourke.
The Leinster men suffered another setback on six minutes when they lost skipper Stephen Bray with a shoulder injury, but they battled gamely and succeeded in stifling Kerry’s running game.
However, the Royals wasted numerous opportunities at the Hill 16 end, hitting 10 first-half wides against a misfiring Kingdom side.
After a few disappointing efforts, Cian Ward came good in the latter stages of the first half, hitting three points, one of them a superb effort from a sideline ball under the Hogan Stand.
That reduced Kerry’s lead to a flimsy two points, and the Leinster men were still very much in the game at the interval, trailing by 1-3 to 0-4.
Jack O’Connor had introduced Tommy Walsh to the action just before the break, and the big Kerins O’Rahilly man did exactly what the boss had requested, rising high to pluck Tadhg Kennelly’s delivery out of the air and blast to the net within a minute of the restart.
That was the beginning of the end for Meath, who found themselves constantly stretched by a familiar Kingdom momentum.
Walsh made quite an impact, adding a couple of stylish points to his tally, and Kennelly also hit the target twice as the Munster men pulled comfortably clear of the struggling Royals.
Meath trailed by eight, and had managed just two second-half points before they hit 1-1 in stoppage time, with the hard-working Sheridan pulling the ball back for Ward to beat goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy with a low finish.
Kerry: D Murphy, M O Se, T Griffin, T O'Sullivan, T O Se, M McCarthy, K Young, D O Se, S Scanlon, P Galvin, T Kennelly (0-2), D Walsh, C Cooper (0-3, 2f), Declan O'Sullivan, Darren O'Sullivan (1-1, 1-0 pen).
Subs: T Walsh (1-2) for D Walsh (28), A O’Mahony for Young (50), M Quirke for D O Se (60), P O’Connor for Cooper (60), B Sheehan for Declan O’Sullivan (66)
Meath: P O'Rourke, C O'Connor, A Moyles, E Harrington, S Kenny, C McGuinness, C King, N Crawford, B Meade, P Byrne, J Sheridan (0-1), S Bray, D Bray, B Farrell (0-2, 1f), C Ward (1-4, 0-2f, 0-2 sideline).
Subs: M Burke for S Bray (6), J Queeney for Kenny (45), N McKeigue for D Bray (49), M Ward for Crawford (53), K Reilly for King (57)
Referee: G O Conamha (Galway)