Meath had 15 points to spare against 14-man Carlow at O’Moore Park this evening, 2-18 to 0-9.
This comfortable victory means that the beaten Division Two finalists, for whom nine different players were on target, are just one win away from a place in the provincial final. They now prepare for a semi-final showdown with either Westmeath or Laois at Croke Park on Sunday, June 9th.
The winners started and finished the first half strongly, an unanswered run of 2-3 without reply before the short whistle giving Andy McEntee’s men a 2-7 to 0-4 interval lead after the first eight points had been shared. Michael Newman, who plundered 1-6, and Padraic Harnan netted in the 29th and 32nd minutes respectively, Donal Keogan – who was effectively a free man due to Carlow’s defensive structure – getting forward to provide the assist for both three-pointers.
In keeping with what has become a recurring theme to their season, Carlow – who were of course without manager Turlough O'Brien, coach Steven Poacher and star midfielder Brendan Murphy through suspension - will feel aggrieved with some of the decisions that went against them, the loss of midfielder Sean Murphy and centre back Daniel St Ledger to red and black cards respectively during the third quarter a particularly-damaging double blow to their prospects.
The Royals flew out of the blocks and led by four points to no score inside eleven minutes, but the Barrowsiders gradually settled and began to impose themselves on the game, albeit fleetingly, a trio of Darragh Foley points drawing them level at 0-4 apiece with eleven minutes left in the first half, the all-action John Murphy having opened Carlow’s account following good work by the impressive Sean Gannon.
Newman (free), Thomas O’Reilly, Cillian O’Sullivan and Bryan Menton slotted the early Meath scores and – following a 14-minute scoring drought - Ben Brennan’s 25th-minute free at the town end restored the favourites’ lead before the St Colmcilles clubman arrowed over a delightful left-footed strike – 0-6 to 0-4.
Six minutes from the break, superb work from Bryan McMahon and Keoghan culminated in the game-breaking goal, Newman despatching to the net with aplomb, his seventh championship major handing his county a five-point cushion.
Two-and-a-half minutes later, Keoghan was again the provider as this time he placed fellow half back Harnan for the second Royal County goal. Going into stoppage time at the end of the first half, Newman stroked over a free after McMahon was fouled, the Royals going in for the half-time team talk carrying a nine-point lead.
Carlow's Conor Doyle with Padraic Harnan of Meath
Menton fired his second seven minutes after the restart, substitute Diarmuid Walshe (free) and Sean Murphy having whacked over a couple of beautiful Carlow scores in between. Walshe’s left-footed free had the underdogs back within seven ten minutes into the second half but the unerring Newman replied in kind, the losers reduced to 14 men 20 minutes from time as Murphy was shown a straight red for lashing out at Keogan.
Corner back Shane Gallagher added insult to injury when he instantly added to the winning tally, Carlow quickly losing another key man when St Ledger picked up a black card. Newman converted the resultant free, the gap swelling to ten points with a quarter of the match left to be played.
Eoghan Ruth clipped over a consolation score 15 minutes from the end and Andy Colgan did well to deny the losers a goal before sub Graham Reilly added to the winners total, knocking over a point before winning a penalty, which Louth man Robert Sansom brilliantly saved, diving to his right on the hour to deny Newman his second goal.
Tinryland clubman Walsh swung over a ‘45’ at the other end, which was cancelled out by a Newman free. Meath looked to have netted a third goal when substitute Ronan Ryan finished the ball to the net but a free-out was awarded and the score did not stand. Another Royal replacement, James Conlon pointed twice either side of another Newman point and a second from his Colmcilles clubmate Reilly, the diminutive Conlon dispatching his third quickfire point in considerable style to close the scoring as Meath eased into the last four in Leinster.
Carlow, who suffered a blow when Paul Broderick departed through injury after 14 minutes and also had Ruth black-carded, are destined for the Qualifiers and are long overdue a change in fortune.
Meath - A Colgan; S Gallagher (0-1), C McGill, S Lavin; D Keogan, P Harnan (1-0), G McCoy; B Menton (0-2), A Flanagan; C O'Sullivan (0-1), B McMahon, B Brennan (0-2, 1f); S Tobin, M Newman (1-6, 0-4f), T O'Reilly (0-1). Subs: B Dardis for T O'Reilly, G Reilly (0-2) for S Tobin, R Ryan for G McCoy, D Campion for C O'Sullivan, J Conlon (0-3) for B Brennan, E Devine for B Menton.
Carlow - R Sansom; L Roberts, S Redmond, Conor Lawlor; J Morrissey, D St Ledger, C Moran; S Murphy (0-1), E Ruth (0-1); S Gannon, D Foley (0-3, 1f), C Doyle; P Broderick, D O'Brien, John Murphy (Grange) (0-1). Subs: D Walshe (0-3, 2f, 1'45) for P Broderick, Conor Crowley for D O'Brien, B Kavanagh for Conor Lawlor, J Clarke for S Gannon, D Moran for D St Ledger (BC), John Murphy (Tinryland) for D Ruth (BC), D Lunney for John Murphy (Grange).
Referee - B Cassidy.Tweet