Kildare and Meath are on the move; could a more competitive Leinster Senior Football Championship be on the horizon?
Dublin have dominated for almost a decade now, and as much as they deserve plaudits for reaching a level other counties must aspire to, the province is crying out for some of the traditional heavy-hitters to challenge for honours again.
Meath lost three Leinster finals to Dublin in 2012, ’13 and ’14, and by increasing margins each year, but are regrouping again under Andy McEntee.
Cian O’Neill is trying to guide Kildare to a first Leinster final appearance since 2009, and have already been boosted by promotion to Division 1 of the league this season.
And so the scene is set for a cracking semi-final this Saturday evening. Expect a fantastic atmosphere at a packed Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, with both teams going all out to earn a spot at Croke Park on 16th July.
Tickets are already selling well, so supporters are advised not to leave it until the last minute to decide to head for Tullamore.
It will be a quick return to the venue for Kildare fans, following their emphatic quarter-final defeat of Laois there last Sunday week.
The Lilywhites conceded an early goal, but still ran out winners by 14 points – 1-21 to 1-7. Ollie Lyons and Keith Cribbin starred in a solid defensive unit, Kevin Feely dominated midfield with some superb fielding while Daniel Flynn was a constant threat at full-forward. The target-man was well supported by Cathal McNally, Paul Cribbin and Niall Kelly, as they coped admirably without the injured Neil Flynn and Ben McCormack.
Speaking afterwards, Cian O’Neill said: “A lot of people were questioning where the scores were going to come from…but we answered that today. Lads dame and put their hand up, as they have done in training. Everyone contributed in a huge way.”
For Meath, scoring 27 points at Parnell Park was a phenomenal achievement against an improving Louth outfit, although the concession of three goals was a source of concern.
Graham Reilly played a captain’s part with seven points from play, while Donal Lehihan and James Toher fired over some excellent scores. Bryan Menton and Ronan Jones put in good shifts in the midfield sector and despite leaking three goals, the defensive unit only conceded five points from open play.
Understandably, after outscoring their opponents by 0-14 to 1-0 in the closing 20 minutes, team boss Andy McEntee expressed his delight. “We’re trying to convince fellas that, in the last ten minutes, we’re okay and we can win games. We looked stronger in a lot of areas in the last ten minutes.”
The last semi-final meeting between the counties was in 2014, when Meath advanced by 2-16 to 0-17. And, if the quarter-finals are an accurate judge, we can expect another exciting shoot-out this Saturday.