Meath 4-13, Kildare 1-16: Neil Heffernan was the star turn with four goals as Meath claimed the Leinster Under 21 H A title with a win over holders Kildare that was more convincing than the scoreline suggests.
When the Trim lad bagged his fourth goal midway through the second-half the scoreboard read 4-10 to 0-10 and the outcome decided.
Kildare substitute Gavin Sutherland netted from a 60th minute free for what proved to be the final score of the game after Ciaran Joyce was deemed to have over-carried the sliotar.
While Heffernan took the scoring plaudits, he was assisted by eight team mates who posted 0-13 between them. All six forwards registered as did midfielders Keith Keogan and Mark O’Sullivan. Substitute Noel Fagan also got off the mark to leave it 4-13 to 0-15 after 58 minutes.
On the Kildare side full-forward Martin Fitzgerald put 0-6 to his name but only scored once from open play. Conor Kenny was the only one of the visitors’ starting 15 to put over more than a single score from play.
The three Kildare substitutes chalked up 1-4 between them with Leo Quinn (two) and Danny Butler adding to Sutherland’s efforts. Kildare hit the front in the opening minute when Fitzgerald landed a ’65’. Meath responded positively with team captain Michael Dunne and his Dunboyne clubmate Alan Watters combining to set Heffernan’s first goal.
Meath were never subsequently reeled in and before the fifth minute elapsed Heffernan netted again and it was 2-2 to 0-2.
Kildare did their best to keep within striking distance of Kevin Dowd’s charges and Fitzgerald’s only point from play ignited a Lilywhite revival. By the 29th minute they had halved the deficit while Meath ‘keeper Shane McGann had saved well from Fitzgerald during the opening period.
Substitute Quinn landed Kildare’s final score of the half before Heffernan got in for his third goal, in the 30th minute, and it was 3-5 to 0-8 at the break.
Meath were quickly into their stride from the restart with points from Anthony Healy, David Raleigh, Barry Slevin (free) and Mark O’Sullivan. Two Fitzgerald points from from placed balls (a ’65’ and a free) temporarily halted the Meath gallop. In between those scores Keith Keoghan found the range from distance with a free.
Then came Heffernan’s fourth goal and provincial honours were in the bag for Meath.
Meath (players in bold from Kiltale) – S McGann; D Carty, M Dunne, W Mahady; A Watters, C Joyce, D Kennedy; K Keoghan (0-1,f), M O’Sullivan (0-1); A Healy (0-1), E Marsh (0-1), A Douglas (0-1); B Slevin (0-4, 3fs), N Heffernan (4-0), D Raleigh (0-3). Subs – N Fagan (0-1) for Heffernan (54), K Keena for Marsh (59).
Kildare – S Whelan; C Chan, S Piggott, P O’Sullivan; J Byrne, N O Muineachain (0-1), K Domican (0-1); J O’Malley, E O’Neill; C Kenny (0-3), D McSweeney, E Doyle; S Buggy, M Fitzgerald (0-6, 3 65s, 2fs), J Roche (0-1). Subs – L Quinn (0-2) for Roche (15), D Butler (0-1) for Buggy (23), G Sutherland (1-1, 1-0 free) for McSweeney (37).
Referee – P O’Dowd (Carlow).
Match report from Hogan Stand.