Kildare 2-17 Meath 1-12
Kildare produced another sensational second half performance to wear Meath down and book an All-Ireland semi-final joust against Down in stunning fashion.
Meath flew into an early lead, with Cian Ward’s penalty goal putting them 1-3 to 0-0 up as Kildare looked in disarray having lost Dermot Earley to injury as early as the third minute.
Meath sent an aerial bombardment Kildare’s way early on and Joe Sheridan and Shane O’Rourke were the chief beneficiaries.
Sheridan in particular was magnificent in the opening half, kicking three points including a breathtaking effort from under the Cusack Stand.
Cian Ward (free), O’Rourke and Sheridan raised white flags before Meath were awarded a penalty in the 13th minute.
Sheridan struck the crossbar with a rasping shot but midfielder Brian Meade claimed the rebound, and was hauled down by Andriú Mac Lochlainn when bearing down on goal.
Ward’s kick was almost stopped by Shane McCormack but the ball just squirmed over the line before the Allenwood custodian could gather at the second attempt.
Johnny Doyle got Kildare off the mark with a 15th minute free and the team captain was central to the Lilywhite comeback, winning frees and working hard.
Eoghan O’Flaherty and James Kavanagh were also prominent and it was the latter who struck for a sensational goal in the 30th minute, latching onto Hugh Lynch’s delivery before heading for goal.
With Meath goalie Brendan Murphy advancing, the Ballymore man sold a dummy solo before sliding to the far corner of the net.
Meath’s response was mightily impressive though as they kicked fourth points in six minutes from Sheridan – a wonder score – Ward (free), Sheridan again and Graham Reilly.
Then came perhaps the game’s most critical moment as in the second minute of injury time, Kavanagh touched on a long ball to Pádraig O’Neill, who fisted across goal for Smith to touch home from close range.
It was all Kildare after the resumption, despite the outstanding efforts of Kevin Reilly, Seamus Kenny and Meade.
Hugh McGrillen got to grips with O’Rourke, and more significantly, Michael Foley neutralised the Sheridan threat.
Kieran McGeeney’s side kicked six of the first seven points to establish a four-point advantage and though Meath halved that deficit with 11 minutes still remaining, it was Kildare who had the gas to push on.
The inspirational Johnny Doyle was the driving force, kicking four points as the Lilies shot seven without reply to conclude the game on a high.
Kenny received his marching orders in the 70th minute after receiving a second yellow card but by that stage, Meath were gone.
Kildare: S McCormack; B Flanagan, H McGrillen, A Mac Lochlainn; E Bolton 0-1, P Kelly, E Callaghan; D Flynn, D Earley; M O’Flaherty, P O’Neill 0-2, E O’Flaherty 0-5(2fs); J Kavanagh 1-1 (0-1f), A Smith 1-0, J Doyle 0-8(3fs).
Subs: H Lynch for Earley inj (3); M Foley for Flanagan (35+2); R Sweeney for Callaghan (46); G White for Bolton (57); D Lyons for Kelly (63)
Meath: B Murphy; C O’Connor 0-1, K Reilly, E Harrington; A Moyles, G O’Brien, C King; N Crawford, B Meade 0-1; S Kenny, S Bray, G Reilly 0-2; C Ward 1-2(1-0 pen, 0-2fs), S O’Rourke 0-2, J Sheridan 0-3.
Subs: C McGuinness for Moyles (51); J Queeney 0-1(f) for Ward (52); C Gillespie for Meade (54-57 blood)
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)