Kildare 2-15 Meath 0-13: This game hinged on a two-minute period straight after the break, when Kildare found the net almost immediately after Meath had had a gilt-edged opportunity to blow this Eirgrid Leinster U21FC semi-final wide open.
Ruairí Ó Coileáin was denied by Colin Heeney and before the Royals knew what was happening, Neil Flynn was coming up with a stunning finish after beating four defenders with a blistering run. That gave Kildare enough breathing space to see out the game.
After an edgy start, the All Whites gradually imposed themselves in the first-half. Niall Kelly and Chris Healy had a dangerous look about them with the senior player on the mark twice as Brian Murphy’s side led by three after 19 minutes.
A pair of frees from Ó Coileáin kept Meath in touch but Kildare scored four of the last five points to put a more accurate reflection on the scoreboard.
Healy, who won a junior club All-Ireland with Two Mile House 12 months ago, started the run with a good finish after twisting and turning to make space well. Flynn slotted a free and after Padraic Harnan notched up Meath’s fifth point, Kelly and Chris Fenner hit the target to give the Lilies a 0-9 to 0-5 interval lead.
Meath’s goal chance arrived after 30 seconds of the resumption and who knows what way it might have turned had the otherwise outstanding Ó Coileáin managed to shake the rigging. His shot was powerful enough but just too close to Heeney, who dived to his right to knock it away for a 45, which he caught for good measure.
Two minutes later, Flynn was rewarding Heeney’s brilliance in fabulous fashion, gathering possession just outside the 20m line before embarking on an arcing run that bamboozled the Meath defence. His finish to the roof of the net was immaculate.
It was crucial as though Kildare did go seven points ahead with that major, the excellent Ó Coileáin kicked four points to reduce the margin to a goal.
Kildare showed their mettle with a strong finish. The industrious David Fitzpatrick popped up for a deserved score and Flynn landed three, before substitute Cein McMonagle finished with an injury-time goal.
Scorers for Kildare: N Flynn 1-6 (0-4fs); N Kelly 0-4; C McMonagle 1-0, C Healy, C Fenner 0-2 each; D Fitzpatrick 0-1
Meath scorers: R Ó Coileáin 0-8(6fs); E Wallace 0-3; P Harnan, P Kennelly 0-1 each
KILDARE: C Heeney, P Mescal, D Maguire, B Byrne, R Houilhan, D Duke, D Hyland, R Moore, P Connell, M Sherry, C Fenner, D Fitzpatrick, N Flynn, N Kelly, C Healy.
Subs: D Flaherty for Fenner (54), C McMonagle for Healy (54), T O’Connell for Houlihan BC (57).
MEATH: J Hannigan, M Flood, B Power, G McGowan, L Ferguson, S Dowling, B Power, S McEntee, A Flanagan, H Rooney, P Harnan, R Ó Coileáin, C Rooney, J Wallace, P Kennelly, E Wallace.
Subs: B Duggan for H Rooney (35), J McEntee for C Rooney (46), M Reilly for Flood (49), B Dardis for Kennelly (54), F Ward for S McEntee (59)
Referee: F Smyth (Offaly).
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