A second-half blitz in the snow saw Kerry crush Meath at Fitzgerald Stadium yesterday and book their place in next weekend’s Allianz Division 2A final against Westmeath.
Terrible conditions meant free-flowing hurling was an impossibility in the opening half and, instead, it became a battle of the freetakers, with Shane Conway firing over Kerry’s opening three points from placed balls, while his Meath counterpart Padraig O’Hanrahan replied with two.
By the 20th minute, the hosts led 0-5 to 0-2, courtesy of Mikey Boyle’s first point from play and another Conway free.
Meath had the better of the exchanges in the second quarter, with Padraig O’Hanrahan adding two more frees, though visiting keeper Colm O’Riordan came to his side’s rescue when denying Boyle and Daithí Griffin in quick succession.
Jack Regan had Meath’s first points from play in the 27th and 28th minutes to tie the contest, before Boyle was again denied by keeper O’Riordan. Conway restored Kerry’s lead, but Meath held the advantage at the break after efforts from centreback James Toher and O’Hanrahan’s fifth free (0-8 to 0-7).
However, Kerry upped the gears on the restart, while the Royals failed to register a score. Defenders James O’Connor, Jason Diggins and Paud Costello impressed for Kerry, while impact subs Padraig Boyle and Jordan Conway improved matters up front.
Kerry had the luxury of taking off Shane Conway and giving Tadgh Brick from new club Tralee Parnells his first outing in a Kerry senior jersey.
Goals from Jordan Conway, Padraig Boyle and Jordan Brick sealed the win and set up that decider against Westmeath, while Meath must defeat London in their outstanding game to ensure Division 2A hurling next year.
S Conway 0-8 (6 frees), J Conway 1-3; P Boyle 1-1 (1-0 free); J Brick (1-0), M Boyle (0-2); P Costello (0-1).
P O’Hanrahan (0-5, frees); J Regan (0-2); J Toher (0-1).
M Stackpoole; E Leen , J O’Connor, J Buckley; P Costello, J Diggins, T O’Connor; D Collins, M Boyle ; M O’Leary, D Griffin, S Conway; C Harty, F MacKessy, D Goggin.
P Boyle for D Griffin (44), J Conway for E Leen (48), E Murphy for C Harty (55), J Brick for D Goggin (61), T Brick for S Conway (63).
C O’Riordan; G Murphy, D Kelly, S Whitty; K Keoghan, J Toher, J Kelly; J McGowan, S Morris; D Healy C McCabe, J Regan ; P O’Hanrahan, C Ó Méalóid, E Ó Donnchadha.
K Keena for C Ó Méalóid (47), A Douglas for P O Hanrahan (52), M O’Grady for D Regan (60), J O’Sullivan for J McGowan (69).
C McAllister (Cork)