MEATH 1-9 KILDARE 1-8
There was a sensational ending to this fully-blooded Division 2 NFL encounter as a penalty goal from Barry Dardis in added time strengthened Meath’s promotion push at Pairc Tailteann.
The foul on Shane McEntee as the clock ticked over the 70-minute mark resulted in Keith Cribbin being sin-binned before substitute Dardis stepped up to beat Kildare sub keeper Aaron O’Neill.
Kildare had led from the third minute but they were unable to find an equaliser in the five minutes of added time as Meath held on for a crucial win.
The Lilywhites dominated throughout the opening half and were full value for their 1-7 to 0-5 interval advantage, in a half that was played in driving snow.
Kevin Feely gave the visitors a platform at midfield and they managed to kick a number of superb points from long range throughout the half.
Mickey Newman opened Meath’s account in the first minute before Paddy Brophy equalised and the home side didn’t regain the lead until that match-winning penalty goal.
Neil Flynn and Jimmy Hyland added to the Kildare tally and their lead increased significantly after Ben McCormack rifled to the net on seven minutes.
The full forward still had plenty to do after beating Seamus Lavin along the endline but he managed to make an angle for himself before rifling to the roof of the net.
Meath hit back with points from Ben Brennan and Daragh Campion before McCormack was again on the mark for Kildare. The lead stretched back to five following Keith Cribbin’s point and while Brennan from a free kept Meath in touch the Royals squandered a number of chances to cut the deficit further.
Mick O’Grady was sin-binned on 23 minutes and Kildare also lost McCormack to injury but Meath were unable to take advantage. Tommy Moolick and Neil Flynn hit long-range efforts for Kildare while they were at a numerical disadvantage with Meath’s only point in the same spell came from a Newman free.
Ben Brennan with his third point reduced the deficit within 30 seconds of the restart and it was Brennan who again pointed to leave it 1-7 to 0-7 on 48 minutes.
A pointed free from Neil Flynn on 49 minutes gave Kildare some respite from Meath’s second-half pressure but that proved to be their only score of the half.
Despite their superiority, Meath squandered numerous chances before Barry Dardis pointed a free to leave a goal between the teams.
There were five minutes of normal time remaining when Cillian O’Sullivan reduced the deficit further.
Then just when it looked as if Kildare had weathered the storm Conor McGill got on the end of a Graham Reilly delivery before McEntee was fouled for the penalty from which Dardis made no mistake.
Scorers for Meath: B Brennan (0-4, 2fs), B Dardis (1-1, 1-0 pen, 1f), M Newman (0-2, 1f), C O’Sullivan, D Campion (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kildare: B McCormack (1-1), N Flynn (0-3, 1f), T Moolick, P Brophy, K Cribbin, J Hyland (0-1 each).
MEATH: A Colgan; S Lavin, C McGill, R Ryan; G McCoy, D Keogan, S Gallagher; B Menton, S McEntee; C O’Sullivan, B Brennan, D Campion; B McMahon, M Newman, T O’Reilly.
Sub: G Reilly for McMahon (h-t), N Kane for McCoy (h-t), B Dardis for Newman (49), P Harnan for Campion (59), M Burke for Burke (60).
KILDARE: M Donnellan; M Dempsey, M O’Grady, D Hyland; C O’Donoghue, E Doyle, P Kelly; K Feely, T Moolick; P Brophy, F Conway, K Cribbin; N Flynn, B McCormack, J Hyland.
Subs: A Tyrrell for McCormack (23), P Cribbin for Brophy (49), J Murray for Doyle (53), Kevin O’Callaghan for Conway (56), A O’Neill for Donnellan (56).
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary)