Meath 0-27 Louth 3-9
By Paul Keane
Graham Reilly crowned his first Championship game as Meath captain with a thrilling display to help secure a Leinster SFC semi-final clash with Kildare.
The experienced forward rose to the occasion with seven points, all from open play, as Meath came from behind and sealed a big win with a storming finale.
Louth led by two points with 22 minutes to go thanks, in part, to a bizarre goal for Ronan Holcroft when, with Meath goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke momentarily losing his bearings, the Louth substitute kicked into an empty net.
It put the Wee County on course for a first win over Meath in the Championship since 1975 and, perhaps, for a little piece of revenge for the 2010 Leinster final debacle.
But Meath, who have coughed up some big leads in the Championship in recent seasons, found their best form in the last quarter of the game and outscored Louth by 0-14 to 1-0 in the closing period to win in style.
Reilly was excellent in this period and capitalised on good work around him by the likes of Donal Keogan, Donal Lenihan, Bryan McMahon and James Toher to put Meath in the clear.
It was an intriguing debut for Toher, Meath's Christy Ring Cup winning captain last year, who only started due to a hip injury picked up by James McEntee during the warmup.
Toher went on to score five points and had a strong game at Parnell Park, leaving him in line to start again when they face Kildare on June 17.
It was an exciting encounter though Meath will wonder how they didn't score a goal with as many as half a dozen chances throughout an end to end game.
Keogan, Cillian O'Sullivan and Reilly all wasted goal chances early on and Louth punished them with a penalty conversion from Jim McEneaney in the 29th minute.
Lenihan converted two late points for Meath in response to leave them with a narrow interval lead, 0-10 to 1-6.
Louth upped the ante after the restart and Holcroft grabbed a hugely fortunate 39th minute goal when he intercepted O'Rourke's kick out and then kicked a miscued point attempt back into an empty net.
O'Rourke was red faced but did pull off some excellent saves during the game and was bailed out as Meath finished with that flourish.
Conal McKeever scored a third goal for Louth in the 58th minute but Meath were on song at that stage and kicking scores for fun with substitutes Ruairi O Coileain, Sean Tobin and Thomas Reilly all weighing in with points.
Scorers for Meath: G. Reilly (0-7); D. Lenihan (0-6, 3 frees, 1 '45); J. Toher (0-5, 3 frees); T. Reilly, B. McMahon, R O Coileain (0-2 each); C. O'Sullivan, R. Jones, S. Tobin (0-1 each).
Scorers for Louth: J. McEneaney (1-2, 1 pen); C. McKeever, R. Holcroft (1-0); J. Califf (0-3, 1 free); R. Burns (0-2, 2 frees); A. Williams, B. Duffy (0-1 each).
Meath: P. O'Rourke; D. Tobin, C. McGill, M. Burke; P. Harnan, D. Keogan, S. McEntee; B. Menton, R. Jones; J. Toher, C. O'Sullivan, E. Wallace; G. Reilly, B. McMahon, D. Lenihan.
Subs: D. McQuillan for McGill (30, black card); R. O Coileain for S McEntee (52); C. O'Brien for Menton (55); T. Reilly for McMahon (59); S. Tobin for O'Sullivan (69).
Louth: C. Lynch; P. Reilly, K. Carr, P. Rath; J. Bingham, L. Dullaghan, A. Williams; T, Durnin, J. Stewart; D. Byrne, J. McEneaney, B. Duffy; P. Smith, E. O'Connor, R. Burns.
Subs: K. Murphy for Rath (20); A. McDonnell for Byrne (26); R. Holcroft for Carr (29, black card); C. McKeever for Dullaghan (h/t); J. Califf for Durnin (41); R. Moore for Smith (70).
Referee: B. Cassidy (Derry).