HomeFootballMeath fall agonisingly short in pulsating All-Ireland U20 semi-final against Kerry

Meath fall agonisingly short in pulsating All-Ireland U20 semi-final against Kerry


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It proved to be a particularly painful loss for a brave Meath outfit whose efforts to force an equaliser in a pulsating finale fell agonising short. The Royals had three opportunities to win the match, or at least send it to extra-time in the closing four minutes, but were unable to take any of them and it was Kerry who marched on to a final meeting with Ulster champions Tyrone.

Twice substitute Conor McWeeney had chances of an equaliser but first his fisted effort came off a post and then the crossbar before being cleared on 59 minutes. Then, in added-time, a gap opened up in front of him but the Kilbride clubman seemed to be caught in two minds and with an opportunity to fist over the crossbar, he instead opted to pick out Rian McConnell but overcooked his pass.

The action had moved a minute over the allotted three minutes when captain Liam Kelly, probably mindful that the referee was about to blow the final whistle, rushed a shot which went wide of the target.

It was that close for Meath in what was a superb game between two well-matched and drilled outfits. There was no shortage of skill in what was, at times, a fascinating contest, culminating in some great scores at both ends, particularly in the opening half.

Meath led by three points at one stage in the opening quarter and could have been happy enough with their overall performance throughout the first period, even though they trailed by 0-8 to 0-7 at half-time after playing against a stiff enough breeze.

Cathal O’Bric’s side gained parity early in the second half but it was Kerry who enjoyed a two-point buffer for long stretches of the half, leaving Meath chasing the game. A point by substitute Paddy Lane left Kerry leading by 0-12 to 0-10 after 47 minutes and that turned out to be the winning score as Meath only managed a pointed free via Jamie Murphy after that despite enjoying territorial superiority in the closing stages.

Kerry were particularly menacing on the counter-attack throughout with strong running from midfielder Eddie Healy, Cormac Dillon, and Luke and Aidan Crowley. They also created two great goalscoring opportunities in the second half but came away with just a point from those efforts with Meath ’keeper Adam McDermott producing a great save to deny Tomás Kennedy on 51 minutes.

Meath laboured somewhat in attack and didn’t create one clear-cut goal chance. A tight rein was kept on wing-back Eamonn Armstrong, who had registered three goals in the Leinster campaign, and the Duleek-Bellewstown man rarely got an opportunity to forge forward.

Healy had his side ahead within 30 seconds after a quick counter-attack but Meath were back level following a good score from Shaun Leonard.

Meath then enjoyed a fine spell during which they hit three points in a four-minute spell from John O’Regan and Hughie Corcoran (two) to open up a 0-4 to 0-1 lead. Kerry, though, showed their attacking prowess and after McDermott saved comfortably from Luke Crowley, they hit successive points in a three-minute spell from Kennedy, Dillon and Daniel Kirby to be level by the 10th minute.

Murphy regained the lead for Meath and the St Patrick’s man showed that he was bang on form with his second point on 15 minutes. However, Meath didn’t add to their tally until Murphy pointed a free on the stroke of half-time.

Despite hitting three wides, Healy, Ryan Diggin, Dillon (free) and Luke Crowley all pointed for the Kingdom to leave them one clear at the break.

Meath introduced McWeeney on the restart and Seán Emmanuel joined the action shortly after and they were back level when midfielder Jack Kinlough got on the end of a fine move to split the posts.

Kerry were looking increasingly dangerous in attack and after Rob Stack intercepted a stray pass, Aidan Crowley set-up Luke Crowley who fired over when he probably should have found the net.

Dillon and Charlie O’Connor exchanged scores and there was still the minimum between the sides after Murphy shot over from the left wing in reply to a Dillon free.

Meath then hit a number of bad wides which were, ultimately, to prove costly. Kerry, too, looked nervy when shooting and were also off the mark in the same period. After substitute Lane left them two clear, McDermott came to his side’s rescue with that block from Kennedy, while, shortly after, Kelly got down to make a vital block on Lane’s goal effort.

Murphy’s fifth point brought it back to the minimum on 58 minutes but they were unable to snatch an equaliser in the remaining minutes despite creating enough opportunities and finished with eight second half wides.

KERRY: Michael Tansley; Gearóid Evans, Cian Lynch, Maidhci Lynch; Charlie Keating, Darragh O’Connor, Ryan Diggin 0-1; Rob Stack, Eddie Healy 0-2; Odhrán Ferris, Luke Crowley 0-2, Daniel Kirby 0-1; Cormac Dillon 0-4 (2f), Tomás Kennedy 0-1, Aidan Crowley. Subs: Adam Segal for Diggin (35), Cathal Brosnan for Ferris (44), Fionn Murphy for Evans (44), Paddy Lane 0-1 for A Crowley (46), Liam Evans for Kirby (56).

MEATH: Oisín McDermott (Ballinlough); Conor Ennis (Ballinabrackey), Liam Kelly (Ratoath), Seán O’Hare (Rathkenny); Eamon Armstrong (Duleek-Bellewstown), John O’Regan (Skryne) 0-1, Killian Smyth (Castletown); Jack Kinlough (Dunboyne) 0-1, Charlie O’Connor (Dunshaughlin) 0-1; Shaun Leonard (St Colmcille’s) 0-1, Rian Stafford (Kilmainhamwood), Conor Duke (Dunshaughlin); Hughie Corcoran (Drumbaragh) 0-2 (1f), Jamie Murphy (St Patrick’s) 0-5 (2f), Rian McConnell (Castletown). Subs: Conor McWeeney (Kilbride) for Leonard (HT), Seán Emmanuel (St Patrick’s) for Stafford (44), Tadhg Martyn (Slane) for O’Connor (44), Brian O’Halloran (Ballivor) for Smyth (46), John Harkin (Dunboyne) for Corcoran (55).

REFEREE: Thomas Murphy (Galway)

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