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Sunday 17 December 2017

Banty buoyed by Royal revival as Carlow culled in replay

SEAMUS McENANEY may have a dubious grasp of Meath's 10-year championship history but, when it comes to accuracy, Royal supporters won't mind so long as his players keep racking up 2-21 tallies.

That was the total amassed by a revitalised Meath on Saturday night as they demolished Carlow at the second time of asking, winning their Leinster SFC quarter-final replay 2-21 to 1-9 in Tullamore.

They were aided by an eight-point haul (including five frees) from Man of the Match Brian Farrell, a two-goal salvo from substitute Peadar Byrne and four points from Graham Reilly, all from play -- more than enough to set up a mouth-watering semi-final date with Kildare in Croke Park on July 1.

True, they have 'only' defeated a pair of Division Four counties to get this far but the Meath boss clearly saw it as a major achievement.

"How many Leinster championship semi-finals have Meath played in the last ten years?" he enquired - and, when none of his inquisitors could deliver an instant answer, Banty provided one for them. "One lads, one," he declared.

Once those same memory-addled reporters had 'googled' that same question, however, it quickly emerged that McEnaney was well off the mark.

If you set 2003 as your starting point, they have actually been in three previous semis - they lost to Kildare in '03 and Laois in '04, before hammering Dublin en route to that hotly disputed Leinster title of 2010. The answer would even rise to four if you include 2002 (when Meath lost to Dublin).

What is beyond historical dispute is that Meath, who lorded over Leinster eight times during Sean Boylan's marathon reign, have only reached one provincial final in the last decade.

What odds on them doubling that stat on Sunday week? Well, they will obviously start as underdogs given their recent losing streak against Kildare, who cruised past Offaly yesterday, and it would be wrong to read too much into Saturday night's 15-point demolition.

Carlow, clearly, had lost their one and only chance of an ambush in the drawn match. True, they led by 0-4 to 0-3 after 17 minutes but then the wheels came off and they trailed by 1-11 to 0-4 at the midpoint.

Byrne, an early replacement for the injured Brian Meade, struck his first goal in the midst of a purple patch that saw Meath reel off 1-8 without reply.

Carlow sub Keith Jackson raised a green flag in the second half, but it was too little, too late, and Meath stretched their lead further with two points from impressive sub Jamie Queeney and a second goal from Byrne, capitalising on a poor kick-out.

"Being written off is nothing new for us," McEnaney remarked afterwards.

"You can see the spirit and attitude that is there, they probably never worked as hard as this evening. It was the work ethic that was the most pleasing part. When last did we get four games in the Leinster championship? Just once in ten years."

We'll take his word for it.

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