Meath are through to this year's Bank of Ireland All-Ireland football final following a remarkable 2-14 to 0-05 victory over reigning champions Kerry at Croke Park this afternoon. The Royal County humiliated the pre-match favourites with a brand of flowing football that would have graced any occasion to earn a date with Galway on September 23rd, and the embarrassment could have been greater such was Meath's overwhelming dominance.
The scoreline is sure to send shockwaves through the Tribesmen after a stunning first half performance saw them five points ahead at the interval. A sluggish start from Meath allowed the reigning champions in for two points through Dara Ó'Cinnéide and Mike Frank Russell, but the Leinster champions quickly found their stride. The busy Ollie Murphy opened his account in the fifth minute and added another two superbly struck points by the 18th minute.
Richie Keely and Ray McGee also pointed as the Royals took control, while Evan Kelly grabbed his first of the afternoon on the half hour, fisting over from close range. Inspirational midfielder John McDermott crowned an authoritative display with a well taken goal just before the break to confirm his side's superiority, finishing with a low drive to Declan O'Keefe's right following clever approach work by Murphy and Graham Geraghty.
That propelled the Royal County into a surprising seven point lead, after a combination of solid defending and poor finishing had kept the usually prolific Kerry forwards scoreless for almost 30 minutes. Kingdom manager Páidí Ó'Sé's game plan wasn't helped by the first half injuries to Mike Hassett and Tom O'Sullivan, who were replaced by Tommy Griffin and Maurice Fitzgerald respectively. However, John Crowley and captain Eoin Brosnan restored a little bit of pride with well executed points before the interval to reduce Meath's advantage to five points at half time, with the scores standing at 1-06 to 0-04.
The second half was to prove an even bigger embarrassment for Páidí Ó'Sé's men, with the vigilant Meath defence restricting the lack lustre Kerry forwards to a solitary point. Meath, however, continued in the same fashion registering points with ease, McGee, Kelly, and half backs Nigel Nestor and Hank Traynor all scoring to stretch Meath's advantage further. As Meath's lead grew so did their confidence, and with Darren Fay, Mark O'Reilly, Nigel Crawford and McDermott all on top, Kerry continued to misfire. They conspired to miss several scoring opportunities and only registered their fifth and final point of the half until the 61st minute, through substitute Declan Quill.
By that stage Geraghty, Trevor Giles and McGee had added three more points, and a second goal from substitute John Cullinane five minutes from time put the final gloss on an amazing afternoon for Sean Boylan's side. Cullinane pounced on a broken ball just yards out and finished in style to put a remarkable, but thoroughly deserved, complexion on the scoreline. And Kerry's misery was further compounded by Eamon Fitzmaurice's dismissal in the 69th minute for a second bookable offence.
Filed by Shane Murray