Kildare 3-13 Meath 1-12
A strong finish ensured Kildare were crowned Division 2B champions at Parnell Park this afternoon.
Tony Murphy, Richie Hoban and Martin Fitzgerald grabbed the Lilywhites’ goals in a game which was closely fought until the final eight minutes.
Meath led by 1-5 to 0-7 at half-time with Colm Ó Mealoid netting their goal.
The sides were tied at 1-11 apiece on the hour mark, but Kildare outscored the Royals by 2-3 to 0-1 late on to win out.
Kildare had won the sides' group game by just two points on the opening day of the league in February, so all the pointers were that this was going to be another tight encounter.
Little separated the sides in the opening stages with Meath leading by 0-5 to 0-4 after 20 minutes. Noel Kirby converted four frees, while half-forward Sean Heavey claimed the Royals' lone score from play in the first quarter.
There was a heavy reliance on scores from placed balls in the first half, with both defences very much on top.
All of Kildare's first half tally came from placed balls with Confey’s Paul Divilly landing five frees - two of those in the opening 20 minutes. Their other early points came from Richie Hoban and midfielder Danny Butler.
Divilly's third point tied the game at 0-5 apiece in the 24th minute. The centre-forward claimed Kildare’s remaining two points before the interval to push them 0-7 to 0-5 ahead in the 32nd minute.
Kildare were under tremendous pressure in the closing stages of the half though. Meath corner forward Peter Durnin fluffed two goal-scoring opportunities late on, but substitute Ó Mealoid made amends.
Derek Doran broke away from Kildare full-back Fiachra Ó Muineacháin in the 33rd minute and fed the ball to Stephen Donoghue who spotted Ó Mealoid and he finished to an empty net.
Kildare were eager to respond before the half-time whistle and Under-21 player Martin Fitzgerald was unlucky not to get in for a goal. The Ardclough clubman struck a vicious goal-bound effort in injury-time, but he was denied by a magnificent block from Meath goalkeeper Shane McGann.
Stephen Clynch put Meath two points clear on the restart, striking the first of his four second half points. Indeed most of the early second half pressure came from the Royals.
They went close to adding a second goal to their tally when Doran had a shot blocked by Kildare goalkeeper Paul Dermody, after the Kildalkey clubman had beaten Fiachra Ó Muineacháin for pace.
However, Kildare moved 1-9 to 1-7 in front 10 minutes into the second half, with points from Divilly and Fitzgerald followed by a Tony Murphy goal.
Kildare's first three-pointer arrived in the 45th minute. An initial shot from Conor Kenny was flicked on by Murphy and past Meath stopper McGann to give the Lilywhites a two-point cushion.
Good work by Clynch, Kirby and Durnin kept Meath in touch with the Royals moving back ahead at 1-11 to 1-10 with 60 minutes on the clock.
Nonetheless, the closing 10 minutes really belonged to Kildare as Willie Sunderland’s charges dominated in all sectors.
Danny Butler and Mark Moloney ensured the Lilywhites held firm control in the midfield sector with two quick-fire points from the Celbridge duo giving Kildare a 1-12 to 1-11 advantage.
Defender Hoban then watched his long range free find the back of the Meath net in the 65th minute, the stroke of luck giving his side the momentum to see out the win.
A minute later Kildare bagged their third goal after Tony Murphy set up Martin Fitzgerald who fired home to bring his own tally to 1-1.
Meath were wasteful and accumulated 11 second half wides, including chances from their captain Enda Keogh and Sean Heavey late in the game.
Clynch bagged a consolation point before Fitzgerald's injury-time score capped off a fine Kildare performance, precious league silverware and promotion to Division 2A.
KILDARE: P Dermody; P Reidy, F Ó Muineacháin, J Doran; K Divilly, R Hoban (1-1, 1-1f), N Ó Muineacháin; D Butler (0-2, 0-1 sl), M Moloney (0-1); C Kenny, P Divilly (0-6, 0-6f), D Harney; M Fitzgerald (1-2), T Murphy (1-0), L Quinn.
Subs used: J Enright (0-1) for Quinn (half-time), J O’Malley for K Divilly, R Kelly for Harney (both 58 mins).
MEATH: S McGann; C Reilly, D Healy, S Morris; J Togher, P Fagan, E Keogh; S Clynch (0-4, 0-4f), S Donoghue; S Heavey (0-1), N Kirby (0-6, 0-6f), E Marsh; J Kelly, D Doran, P Durnin (0-1).
Subs used: C Ó Mealoid (1-0) for Marsh (20 mins), C Fitzsimons for Donoghue (42), N Horan for Durnin (53), M Cole for Kelly (60).
Referee: Eamon Hasson (Derry).