Two goals in the second quarter were the all important scores as John McCarthy’s Meath minor footballers disposed of Laois and booked their place in the Leinster Final on January 3, writes Ruth Chambers.
Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship Semi Final
The Faithful County of Offaly will provided the opposition in the decider, which will take place in Parnell Park. They overcame a fancied Kildare side in by three points in Newbridge to set up a showdown with McCarthy’s men.
Having emphatically taken care of Dublin and Westmeath in the previous two rounds, Meath were favourites to take the scalp of Laois in the penultimate round. And although that’s exactly what they did, this particularl performance wasn’t as solid as the previous two. Nonetheless full back Liam Kelly from Ratoath put in a man of the match performance, while Duleek-Bellewstown man Alan Bowden fired on all cylinders in attack.
Indeed it was Bowden who bagged one of the first half goals, while substitute Liam Stafford the other. The Colmcilles man came on for the injured John McDonagh after just 16 minutes and he too had a superb game in the green and gold.
Playing against the wind during the opening half, Meath brought a six point advantage in to the dressing room at the break. The second half certainly wasn’t a classic but that won’t bother John McCarthy as he now prepares for a provincial decider early in the New Year.
In the quarter final Laois gave Carlow quite the trimming in O’Moore Park and we expected to provide a tough assignment for the Young Royals. Meath didn’t have things all their own way but nonetheless they were the better team throughout. Much improvement will be needed when they face Ken Furlong’s Offaly on the first Sunday in 2021.
McCarthy named an unchanged side for the semi final fixture but was forced to make two changes early on with corner back Ben Donnelly limping off in the fourth minute and John McDonagh being forced to retire twelve minutes later.
The first half provided most of the entertainment and Meath sprang from the traps well. With just 15 seconds on the clock a Sean Emmanuel pass found McDonagh and he made no mistake with his shot and raised a white flag. Soon after Dunshaughlin man Ruairí Kinsella doubled the advantage when he collected possession from his club mate Conor Gray before splitting the posts.
Laois, however, responded well and two points from frees courtesy of Arles Killeen man Colin Dunne restored parity by the eighth minute. They actually nudged in front soon after with a superb point from midfield man Conor Heffernan. He combined well with Emo’s Ross Meredith before firing over to leave the score a 0-3 to 0-2.
Ballinabrackey’s Mark Coffey provided the pass for Alan Bowden who struck the leveller in the tenth minute, while Coffey got his own name on the scoresheet a minute later to give Meath a 0-4 to 0-3 advantage.
Two without response from the visitors put them back in the driving seat but then came a real purple patch from the Royals. First up captain Eoghan Frayne converted a free after Mossie Corbett was impeded and then came the two goals.
Meath went 1-5 to 0-5 up thanks to Liam Stafford’s superbly taken goal. The Colmcilles’ man took a pass from Frayne before blasting to the net. Six minutes later Alan Bowden got on the end of a loose ball and also hit the net to give Meath a 2-5 to 0-5 lead. Just before the goal McCarthy’s side should have been awarded a penalty when Liam Kelly was hauled down but referee Eamon O’Connor didn’t agree.
At the interlude Meath had a 2-6 to 0-6 lead and after the turnaround scores were at a premium. Laois only added two, a goal from substitute Kieran O’Donnell and a point from the boot of Colin Dunne from a free. Down the other end Meath were poor in front of the posts but four further points were enough to keep the scoreboard ticking over and secure them a place in the final.
Much improvement will be needed the next day out if Meath want to claim a twelfth ever Leinster Minor Football Championship crown.
SCORERS: Meath – Alan Bowden 1-3, John McDonagh 0-1, Ruairí Kinsella 0-1, Mark Coffey 0-1, Eoghan Frayne 0-4 (2f), Liam Stafford 1-0,
Laois – Colin Dunne 0-4 (3f), Conor Kelly 0-1, Conor Heffernan 0-1, Ross Meredith 0-1, Kieran O’Donnell 1-0.
MEATH: Billy Hogan; Ben Moran, Liam Kelly, Ben Donnelly; Sean O’Donoghue, Oisin Kelly, Ciarán Caulfield; Sean Emmanuel, Conor Gray; John McDonagh, Ruairí Kinsella, Mark Coffey; Alan Bowden, Eoghan Frayne, Aaron Murphy. SUBS: Mossie Corbett replaced B Donnelly (inj) 5 mins, Liam Stafford replaced J McDonagh (inj) 16 mins, Oisin Keogh replaced A Murphy 40 mins, Cian Smith replaced B Moran 45 mins.
LAOIS: Sam Krebbs; Ben Dempsey, Josh Hogan, Ben Reddin; Darragh Sleven, David Dooley, Simon Fingleton; Conor Kelly, Conor Heffernan; Shaun Fitzpatrick, Colin Dunne, Ross Meredith; Tom Fennelly, PJ Ward, Oisín Looney. SUBS: Kieran O’Donnell replaced T Fennelly 40 mins, Davin McEvoy replaced C Kelly 45 mins, Sam Birrane replaced J Hogan 52 mins, Stephen Lennon replaced S Fitzpatrick 54 mins, DJ White replaced R Meredith 54 mins.
REFEREE: Eamon O’Connor (Offaly).