A fortuitous goal from inside his own half by Meath full-back Kevin Reilly, just moments after his goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke had saved a penalty, was the decisive score in Aughrim as the Royals saw off the challenge of a gallant Wicklow side 1-17 to 1-12 in the Leinster SFC quarter-final this evening.
O’Rourke was harshly adjudged to have fouled John McGrath but then saved Seanie Furlong’s poor penalty before a clearance from Reilly, backed by the strong wind, bounced over Wicklow goalkeeper John Flynn into the net at the other end three minutes from the break.
That goal put Meath 1-9 to 1-4 with Brian Menton adding a point before the interval for Meath, who will now meet Wexford in the Leinster SFC semi-final.
Wicklow battled well against the wind in the opening half with Paul Earls giving them a great boost when he got inside Donal Keogan to fire home a goal after six minutes.
Mickey Newman, who crowned his debut for Meath with five points from placed balls, helped steer them back on course when he added a third free after 12 minutes and two excellent efforts from man-of-the-match Graham Reilly helped the Royals open up a 0-5 to 1-0 lead after 14 minutes.
But Wicklow made good use of any chances they created and points from furlong and midfielder Anto McLoughlin edged them a point in front against the wind after 17 minutes.
Points from the speedy Eamon Wallace, another point apiece from Reilly and Newman and one from distance by Brian Meade pushed Meath 0-9 to 1-4 in front approaching half-time after Rory Finn had pointed for the home side.
Then came the drama of the penalty as Wicklow blew a glorious opportunity and could only watch in horror as Kevin Reilly’s monster kick eluded attackers and defenders before skidding off the ground and over the head of goalkeeper Flynn, who had stepped off his line.
But Wicklow regrouped at the interval and hit four points in as many minutes at the start of the second-half with Paudge McWalter, Darren Hayden. McLoughlin and Furlong finding their range to reduce the margin to 1-10 to 1-8.
However, that was as close as they got with Padraig Harnan becoming the first of three substitutes to score for Meath and they were able to respond to each Wicklow point with a score at the other end as they held on to reach the semi-finals, while Wicklow head for the qualifiers.
Meath: P O'Rourke; D Keogan, K Reilly (1-00), B Menton (0-01); C Lenehan, C King, M Burke; B Meade (0-01), C Gillespie; P Byrne, D Carroll, G Reilly (0-04); E Wallace (0-03), S Bray, M Newman (0-05, 0-04f, 0-01 ’45).
Subs: P Harnan (0-01) for Lenehan (35 mins), S Kenny for Burke (35 mins), B Farrell for Carroll (44 mins), J Sheridan (0-01) for Newman (61), P Gilsenan (0-01) for Byrne (65 mins)
Wicklow: J Flynn; C Hyland, D Power, A Byrne; D Hayden (0-01), P McWalter (0-01), D Healy; A McLoughlin (0-03), R Finn (0-01); D O'Sullivan, J Stafford, J Kelly; J McGrath (0-4, 0-03f), S Furlong (0-02, 0-02f), P Earls (1-00).
Subs: JP Dalton for O’Sullivan (35 mins), P Dalton for JP Dalton (41), L Benson for Healy (48 mins), B McCrea for Kelly (53 mins), B Coen for Furlong (68 mins)
Referee: C Lane (Cork).