A strong first-half showing set Meath up for a Leinster JFC semi-final win over tenacious Longford at Pairc Tailteann on Tuesday night.
Meath ..... 2-23
Longford .... 2-18
On an ideal evening for football, David Nelson's men outscored Longford by 2-8 to 1-1 in the opening quarter.
That ten-point advantage sustained Meath against a strong Longford rally that saw Frank McNamee's players trim the deficit to just four points, 2-16 to 2-12, by the 42nd minute.
The open nature of proceedings is reflected in the scoreline with 45 scores in 60 minutes with all bar 11 coming from play
Daire Rowe and Kevin Ross scored 0-14 between them. By the end eight different players were on the scoresheet for Meath. Three subs contributed to the total.
Longford seemed to finish with a stronger team that they started and outscored Meath by 1-17 to 0-15 from the 15th minute.
Longford maintained the momentum gained in the second quarter and continued to eat into the deficit from the restart.
When sub Shane Kenny goaled the gap was down to five points after 38th minutes, 2-15 to 2-10.
Meath reasserted themselves to move 2-20 to 2-13 clear early in the final quarter. Longford persisted and got the gap down to four points when Paddy Kiernan made it 2-21 to 2-17 after 56 minutes.
Points from substitutes Conor Farrell and Darren Finney settled Meath to secure the holders a final ticket.
Playing into the old swimming pool end, Meath opened with points from Daire Rowe and Kevin Ross. By half-time the pair had shared eight points between them.
Mark Hughes pulled a point back for Longford, who were boosted by Killian Farrell's eighth minute goal that tied the scores for the only time at 1-1 to 0-4.
Seconds later Meath regained the lead when Luke Martyn fisted Thomas O'Reilly's delivery to the net. They quickly moved five clear before adding a second goal through Peter O'Connell in the 11th minute. Martin O'Connell's nephew was assisted by Rowe's solo run.
By the 16th miinute it was 2-8 to 1-2. Then Conor McHugh saved well from Longford sub Shane Kenny. Some good approach play saw Meath go 11 points ahead by the 20th minute with good scores from Danny Quinn and Rowe.
Longford outscored Meath by 0-6 to 0-3 in the run-in to the break. The teams headed for the dressing rooms with the home side leading by 2-13 to 1-8.
Meath were outscored by 1-10 to 0-10 in the second-half but had banked enough to book a final meeting with Kildare at Croke Park on Sunday week (June 24).
Meath - Conor McHugh (C); Ciaran O'Rourke, Cian McPartland, Michael Flood; Nicky Judge, Conor Dempsey, Thomas O'Reilly; Sean Claire, Kevin Traynor; Danny Quinn (0-2), Peter O'Connell (1-3), Cathal McConnell; Kevin Ross (0-9, 4fs), Luke Martyn (1-0), Daire Rowe (0-6, 3fs). Subs - Conor Farrell (0-1) for Claire (ht), Eamon O Donncha (0-1 for McConnell (57), Darren Finney (0-1) for Quinn (57), Ger Reidy for Flood (58), Paul Lynch for Rowe (60 + 1), John Keane for O'Reilly (60 + 5).
Longford - Colm Farrell; Conor Shields (0-1), Conor Farrell, Kevin Sorohan; Emmet Noonan, Fergal Battrim, Russell Brady; Brian Farrell (0-1 45), Andrew Dalton; Nigel Rabbitte (0-3), Diarmuid Cooney, Paddy Kiernan (0-5); Darragh Doherty, Killian Farrell (1-0), Mark Hughes (0-6, 2fs)). Subs - Shane Kenny (1-0) for Noonan (14), Gary Rogers for Cooney (20), Fergal Sheridan for Brady (ht), Jason Kelly (0-1) for Doherty (42), David Morgan (0-1) for Farrell (46), Robbie Clarke for Rabbitte (58).
Referee - Stephen Johnson (Louth)