dublin into final
Dublin 0-11 Meath 0-10
A POINT in the third minute of injury-time by Callum Pearson saw Dublin overcome an impressive Meath outfit by the bare minimum in their Leinster MFL semi-final at Parnell Park last Saturday lunchtime.
Pearson's close-in free, awarded for a seemingly innocuous looking challenge on Stephen Smith, completed a dramatic late comeback by the hosts as they kicked five points on the bounce to reel in Meath by the final whistle.
As impressive as that late splurge was, it was a far from convincing display by the Dubs, who struggled for cohesion throughout with their game punctuated by numerous handling errors.
In contrast, their opponents looked far more assured in open play but their policy of dropping deep in the final quarter and trying to protect their lead proved ill-advised by the close.
Meath opened up in dominant fashion and their impressive full-forward Caolach Halligan kicked an excellent point from play in the second minute.
The towering Conor Nash soon doubled that lead with another fine score from play with Dublin spilling possession all too regularly in the initial stages before Pearson tapped over a free in the ninth minute to finally get them on the board.
Meath's Tomás O'Reilly spurned a glorious opportunity of putting daylight between the teams two minutes later but he blazed wide when through on goal with just Dublin 'keeper Evan Comerford to beat.
Dublin enjoyed a goal chance of their own soon after with Conor Kavanagh's sublime pass releasing Smith in space but the Skerries Harps player elected to take his point with three points apparently there for the taking.
A scoreless period of nine minutes ensued as both sides struggled to find their optimum rhythm with Meath guilty of some poor wides from promising positions.
The Royal deservedly restored parity in the 23rd minute as Nash's midfield partner Ronan Jones judged the breeze to perfection with a glorious point from distance.
That score helped generate some further momentum for Meath and despite Comerford making an excellent save to deny Halligan in the 25th minute, the visitors took a well-earned 0-4 to 0-3 interval lead when lively corner-forward Pádraig McGowan turned sharply to fire over from 20 metres.
That lead only survived 20 seconds of the restart with Ben Shovlin making a telling incision to release Dillon Keating for a levelling point.
However, Halligan's movement off the ball was beginning to create problems for the home defence and Nash's well-timed pass in the 33rd minute found the Rathkenny clubman as Meath regained the initiative.
Dublin fell further behind as Tomás O'Reilly converted a 35th minute free before substitute Adam Carey made light of a difficult angle to leave three points between the sides a minute later.
Dublin offered pockets of impressive play in response and two points in quick succession made Smith and Seán Caffrey hinted at a possible Dublin comeback.
Their hopes suffered a setback as Halligan kicked a brace of quality points and with Meath far more economical in the second-half, they eased four points ahead thanks to McGowan's lovely point in the 50th minute.
The Dublin forward line finally clicked into gear with substitutes Tom Fox and Shane Howard offering greater direction with Pearson and Howard chipping in with points as the hosts halved their deficit.
Dublin began to dominate possession around the middle third with team captain Brian Howard beginning to exert a strong influence on affairs and their final ambitions were enhanced further as Pearson converted another free in the 58th minute.
With injury-time being played, Donal McIlgorm levelled matters as Dublin's incessant pressure began to reap dividends with extra-time a distinct possibility at this juncture.
However, Smith's tricky run brought a relatively soft free close in to goal with Kilmacud's Pearson calmly slotting over to complete an encouraging final ten minutes by Paddy Christie's charges.
Scorers - Dublin: C Pearson 0-4 (0-4f), S Smith 0-2, C Kelly, D Keating, D McIlgorm, S Howard, S Caffrey 0-1 each. Meath: C Halligan 0-4, P McGowan 0-2, R Jones, C Nash, T O'Reilly (f), A Carey 0-1 each.
Dublin: E Comerford; D Byrne, S Brennan, C Lennon; C Kavanagh, B Howard, O Kelly; A Elliott, D McIlgorm; B Shovlin, C Kelly, S Caffrey; S Smith, C Pearson, D Keating. Subs: T O'Sullivan for Brennan (half-time), C Hayes for Elliott (35, Black Card), T Fox for Kelly (45), S Howard for Caffrey (48).
Meath: J Browne; R Ryan, D O'Neill, D Quinn; T McGuinness, R Clarke, E O'Kelly-Lynch; R Jones, C Nash; É Ó Donnchadha, T O'Reilly, C O'Reilly; P McGowan, C Halligan, B Hoey. Subs: A Carey for C O'Reilly (half-time), D McEntee for Hoey (48), S Clare for T O'Reilly (54), N Hickey for Ó Donnchadha (57).
Mentors - Dublin: Paddy Christie, Brian O'Regan, James Glancy, Mickey Whelan, Ian Robertson, Gary Matthews. Meath: Dennis O'Shea, Joe Sheridan, Ian Kearney, TP O'Toolan.
Referee: Chris Dwyer (Offaly).
Wides: Dublin 9 (3+6) Meath 10 (7+3).
Conditions: A cold but relatively calm afternoon.
Player of the Game: Brian Howard (Dublin).