Leinster SHC: winning return for Royals

April 23, 2017

Not much of Darren Dineen's hurl left as he collides with Meath's Steven Clynch during the opening round of the Leinster SHC at Pairc Tailteann

Meath marked their return to the Leinster SHC after a 13-year absence with a rousing round-robin victory over Kerry at Pairc Tailteann.

Meath ....... 3-20
Kerry ......... 2-17

Martin Ennis' men recovered from a bad start to take control of matters. Despite playing against the elements in the second-half they moved nine points by the 56th minute having outscored the visitors by 1-8 to 0-5 from the resumption.

A Kerry rally cut the gap to just three points with two minutes of stoppage time remaining. Meath copperfastened a famous result when sub Cathal McCabe netted at the old swimming pool end following a scorching surge by Kiltale clubmate Anthony Forde.

Meath were good value for their win with 10 players contributing to their tally with 2-1 coming from subs used with Kevin Keena netting in the 49th minute to leave it 2-15 to 1-10.

Points from Forde and the industrious Adam Gannon - who operated in a deep role for the Royals - left it 2-18 to 1-12 with under a quarter an hour to go.

Meath would eased to the finish but for the exploits of Kerry 'keeper and captain Aiden McCabe who made saves in quick succession in the third quarter.

Mikey Boyle pulled a goal back for Kerry in stoppage time to leave just three points in it. It was followed by brilliant saves in quick succession by Shane McGann from Boyle and sub Colm Harty.

Kerry weren't helped by the absence of Daniel Collins through injury while Patrick Kelly left the scene with a hand injury before the break.

Kerry - the team with the highest league ranking of the four in the round robin series - suffered demotion in the league while Meath claimed NHL Div 2B honours with a 100% win record.

Meath were the more wasteful side in the opening half with six wides to Kerry's four. The visitors were hindered by 11 second-half wides while the hosts had just two.

Kerry hit Meath for a goal within 14 seconds of the off. After Steven Clynch had a free waved wide after it was given good, Meath pulled back two points by the sixth minute.

The Royals hit the front in the 13th minute when Sean Quigley's sideline cut from 45 metres wound up in the Kerry net to leave it 1-3 to 1-2.

Backed by the breeze, Meath were never in arrears for the remainder of the half. The side were level twice while Meath pushed on to lead by 1-10 to 1-7 at the break.

Meath lost full-back and captain Damian Healy to injury 13 minutes in. Joey Keena who dropped back from midfield from the start contributed to a good showing by the Royals' rearguard.

Meath had seven scorers in the first 35 minutes while Shane Nolan accounted for all bar two points of Kerry's first-half tally. Steven Clynch mishit a close range free in stoppage time, but atoned with the last score of the half from halfway. Kerry lost Patrick Kelly with a hand injury coming up to the interval.

A three-point interval lead didn't look enough for Meath given the conditions. Their third-quarter response set the tone for a famous win.

Kerry travel to Mullingar next Sunday when Meath entertain Laois in Navan. In the final round, Meath visit Westmeath while Kerry host Laois.

Meath - Shane McGann; Shane Whitty, Damian Healy (C), Cormac Reilly; Shane Brennan, Daragh Kelly (0-1), Keith Keoghan (0-1); Anthony Forde (0-1), Joey Keena; Sean Quigley (1-3, 1-0 sideline), Steven Clynch (0-7, 6fs), James Kelly; Gavin McGowan (0-1), Mark O'Sullivan (0-2), Adam Gannon (0-3). Subs - Sean Geraghty for Healy (13), Kevin Keena (1-0) for J Kelly (45), Neil Heffernan (0-1) for Quigley (55), Cathal McCabe (1-0) for McGowan (63), Padraig Kelly for Gannon (69).

Kerry - Aiden McCabe (C); Rory Horgan, Tom Murnane, Sean Weir; John Buckley, Bryan Murphy (0-1), Darren Dineen; Tommy Casey, Paudie O'Connor; Mikey Boyle (1-1), Patrick Kelly, Keith Carmody; Jordan Conway (0-1), Shane Nolan (1-9, 0-6fs), Phillip Lucid (0-1). Subs - Michael O'Leary (0-2) for Kelly (35), Jack Goulding for Casey (ht), Maurice O'Connor (0-1) for Carmody (47), Brendan O'Leary for Lucid (55), Colm Harty for Conway.

Referee - Sean Cleere (Kilkenny).

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