All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Rebels hammer Meath

19 August 2007

Caoimhin King’s attempted block can’t prefend Kevin McMahon’s shot ending up in the Meath net
Meath’s All-Ireland dreams went up in smoke as they were emphatically trounced by Cork in a one-sided semi-final at Croke Park (1-16 to 0-9).

The out-of-sorts Royals managed only three points in the second half as they slipped out of championship contention without so much as a whimper. But credit Cork who went into this contest as underdogs and were vastly superior on the day.

Forced to field without Anthony Moyles, the Royals missed their captain’s inspiration while, in contract, Cork seemed to revel in the absence of their most recognised scoring threat – James Masters.

Cork were by far and away the best team in the first half but their interval advantage was slender – 0-8 to 0-6.

There were only two points in the first ten minutes. Donnacha O’Connor fired the Rebels ahead but Shane O’Rourke levelled for the Royals in the eighth minute. Brian Farrell and Daniel Goulding traded frees and the sides were level for the second time on 14 minutes.

Noel O’Leary was fortunate to escape with a yellow card when his fist connected with Graham Geraghty’s face and the Meath man when down like he’d been hit by a wrecking ball. Cork took control with three points in as many minutes.

Nicholas Murphy and John Miskella fisted over from close range before O’Connor curled a majestic score from long range: 0-5 to 0-2 with 19 minutes on the clock.

Meath had been completely listless and ineffective in the opening stages but they were nearly level on 24 minutes when Farrell turned to deliver a strike at goal. However, Alan Quirke made a fine stop and the Leeside lead remained intact.

O’Rourke and Stephen Bray had poor Meath wides before Farrell closed the gap from as routine free from dead square in front of the posts at the Hill end. The Leinster county introduced Cian Ward on the half hour and the Wolfe Tones clubman was immediately involved in a flowing move that culminated in a superb point from raiding wing back Caoimhin King.

O’Rourke drove over the equaliser in the 33rd minute as Colin Coyle’s charges finally woke from their lethargy. But O’Connor was making light of the absence of dangerman Masters and he slipped inside his man to land his third point – this time off the left boot.

All-Ireland U21 winner Goulding took his tally to two with a point in the final minute of the first half and Kevin McMahon’s injury-time point gave the Rebel County a 0-8 to 0-5 advantage. Farrell knocked over his third free with the last kick of the half and the Royals were undeservedly within two points at the short whistle.

Cork got a free when Kevin O’Reilly pulled Pearse O’Neill in the first minute of the second half and Goulding effortlessly tapped over their ninth point to put three in it. When Niall McKeigue fouled Goulding, O’Connor calmly stroked over his fourth to make it 0-10 to 0-6.

With only 38,000 paying pundits, the atmosphere in Croker was eerily flat. Meath had the majority of the backing and their supporters had rare reason to cheer when Bray turned to kick a point seven minutes into the second half.

Substitute Conor McCarthy struck a disappointing wide but McMahon was on target again to restore Cork’s four-point superiority.

Kieran O’Connor stormed forward to fist another Cork point and Darren Fay’s frustration was evident as he felled the Cork player with a cynical late tackle as he turned to go back to his position. The Meath rock was booked for his indiscipline.

Geraghty picked out Peadar Byrne with a beautiful pass but the Ballinlough clubman blazed a shot recklessly wide from close range. The No.12 then dropped a shot into the ’keeper’s arms and the Royals were made to pay dearly when Billy Morgan’s men quickly had the ball in the net at the other end:

McMahon cut inside his man and the ball deflected off the Meath back and lobbed luckily over stranded Meath goalie Brendan Murphy to send the Munster finalists eight points clear. Ciran O’Connor added a fisted point and Cork were home and hosed with 15 minutes left: 1-13 to 0-7.

Donnacha O’Connor (free) and Goulding added points for the runaway winners and Meath knew it wasn’t going to be their day when Geraghty’s fisted effort came back into play off the crossbar. The ball bobbled around the Cork goalmouth but was eventually spirited to safety.

Farrell contributed Meath’s second point of the second half seven minutes from the end. Donnacha O’Connor and Bray traded late scores but this match was long over as a contest.

Cork - A Quirke; M Shields, G Canty, K O’Connor; N O’Leary, G Spillane, A Lynch; D Kavanagh (0-1), N Murphy (0-1); J Miskella (0-1), P O’Neill (0-1), K McMahon (1-2); D Goulding (0-2), M Cussen, D O’Connor (0-7, 3 frees). Subs - C McCarthy for Miskella (ht), D Duggan for Shields (63), K O’Sullivan for Goulding (64), E Cadogan for O’Leary (69), A Cronin for O’Neill (70)

Meath - B Murphy; C McGuinness, D Fay, N McKeigue; S Kenny, K Reilly, C King (0-1); M Ward, N Crawford; G Geraghty, J Donegan, P Byrne; S Bray (0-2), S O’Rourke (0-2), B Farrell (0-4, 3 frees). Subs - C Ward for Donegan (31), C O’Connor for McGuinness (48), C McCarthy for Byrne (52), N McLoughlin for O’Rourke (60)

Referee - B Crowe (Cavan)