Kildare produced a miraculous performance to beat Meath by a point in today's Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Football Championship semi-final at Croke Park. Scorer of four points, Daithi Reagan will rue a missed opportunity to square matters with a minute to go. He flashed his left-footed free agonisingly wide as Kildare produced the only real shock of the day's Championship action, winning on a scoreline of 0-15 to 1-11.
Kildare opened the scoring, but Meath levelled through a free by Regan. Within a minute Graham Geraghty was taken down in the box and Trevor Giles converted the penalty. Apart from the penalty, Giles was off his game, missing early frees and 45s. Hank Traynor scored a point in the 12th minute, which would prove to be Meath’s last until the 36th minute of the match.
Having weathered Meath’s initial storm, Kildare began to turn the game. A Meath attack was broken down by rookie Andrew McLoughlin. The ball was then promptly pumped downfield, with Tadhg Fennin picking up the breaking ball and scoring from 30 yards out. Ronan Sweeney took on his man, beat him and pointed for Kildare’s third. Captain Anthony Rainbow got Kildare’s eighth score - their seventh without a response from Meath. Johnny Doyle put Kildare further ahead from a free and by half-time they led 0-11 to 0-3.
Meath scored their first point in more than 25 minutes through Evan Kelly when the second half began. Regan got a second point after being fouled by Cillian Brennan, as Meath’s comeback got well and truly underway. It took Kildare five minutes in the second half to get their first point - keeping four points between the teams - 0-12 to 1-05.
Kildare’s defence remained stout and they broke well after periods of sustained Royal pressure. Stuart McKenzie-Smith missed a great goal chance in the 14th minute and Kildare then began to slip into old habits, missing four kickable points in a row. The Lilywhites maintained their control on midfield even though Meath were pegging them back on the scoreboard. Meath scored five points without reply, eventually achieving parity at 1-11 to 0-14.
Kildare introduced Glenn Ryan, a move which prompted a revival as Johnny Doyle scored what proved to be the decisive point from a free. Regan's late miss means Kildare now meet either Dublin or Laois in the Leinster final.
Filed by Barry J Whyte