Leinster JFC Final: Meath too strong for Kildare
Leinster Junior Football Championship Final
MEATH 2-14 KILDARE 0-18
By Paul Keane at Croke Park, Dublin
Not even the presence of 41-year-old Kildare great Johnny Doyle could prevent the county's junior team from relinquishing their Leinster crown at Croke Park.
The Liles battled gamely and were boosted by ex-senior captain Doyle's second-half introduction but early Meath goals from Ruairi O Coileain and Kevin Ross ultimately separated the sides.
O Coileain is an ex-senior himself and would almost certainly have been part of the Royal County's Leinster senior final group but for departing ahead of the 2018 campaign due to work commitments.
Both Meath goals arrived within minutes of eachother mid-way through the first-half and put them into a lead they wouldn't relinquish despite a strong Kildare finish.
Aside from making up for last year's final defeat to Kildare, Meath's reward for an 18th title at the grade is an All-Ireland semi-final clash with the Connacht champions on the weekend of July 6/7.
O Coileain's late inclusion in the Meath lineup was a big boost as the 2012 All-Ireland minor finalist didn't feature in the semi-final win over Louth.
The O'Mahonys man wasted no time in displaying his talent with a strike at goal after just two minutes that was cleared off the line by Colin O'Shea.
He found the net in the 12th minute for real and it was a stunning strike that exploded off his right boot and flew into the top left corner.
Ross, another former Meath senior, followed O Coileain's lead two minutes later when he accepted a pass from Sean Reilly on the left and beat the 'keeper at his far post.
Suddenly Meath led 2-4 to 0-3 and were coasting with further points in the opening half from Jason Scully and free-taker Frank O'Reilly.
Kildare had ex-All-Star Doyle on the bench, five years after he retired from senior duty, but didn't call on him until the second-half.
Padraig Nash, Daniel Grehan and Jack Robinson all posted scores for the Lilies late in the first-half though they still trailed 2-7 to 0-7 at the interval.
Doyle eventually came on after 37 minutes though Meath bossed the third quarter, scoring three points in a row at one stage, to lead 2-12 to 0-11.
Kildare saved their best form for the last 10 minutes and outscored Meath by 0-7 to 0-1 between the 51st and 63rd minutes to leave just a point in it.
Kildare, with Jack Robinson in top form, were piling on the pressure and looked like they might grab a last gasp equaliser but lost possession as O Coileain raced clear for Meath, winning a free that Frank O'Reilly converted to settle it.
Scorers for Meath: Ruairi O Coileain 1-2, Kevin Ross 1-2 (1f), Frank O'Reilly 0-5 (3fs, 145), Jason Scully 0-2, James Cassidy 0-1, Danny Quinn 0-1, Stephen Coogan 0-1.
Scorers for Kildare: Jack Robinson 0-7, Padraig Nash 0-4 (4fs), Shane O'Rourke 0-2, Barry Noone 0-2, Eoghan Lawless 0-1, Mark Grace 0-1, Daniel Grehan 0-1.
MEATH: Adam McDermott; Morgan Callaghan, Michael Flood, Darren Gibney; Cathal McConnell, Ryan Hand, James Cassidy; Robin Clarke, Danny Quinn; Ruairi O Coileain, Frank O'Reilly, Jason Scully; Oran Meehan, Kevin Ross, Robbie Farrelly.
Subs: Darren Finney for Farrelly (h/t), Stephen Coogan for Meehan (42), Sean Claire for Ross (60), Gerard Duane for Gibney (62).
KILDARE: Tom Kinsella; Gavin Scanlon, Colin O'Shea, Darragh Malone; Omar Dunne, Mark Grace, Owen Whelan; Daniel Grehan, Jack Bambrick; Eoghan Lawless, Seamus Hanafin, Padraig Nash; Jack Robinson, Mark Nolan, Niall Murphy.
Subs: Shane O'Rourke for Nolan (h/t), Johnny Doyle for Murphy (37), Conor Jamieson for Whelan (39), Ryan Casey for Dunne (49), Mark Grehan for Hanafin (52), Barry Noone for Daniel Grehan (53).
Referee: Chris Dwyer (Offaly).