Brian Farrell scored eight points for Meath on Saturday despite some close marking by a variety of Carlow players during the Leinster SFC quarter-final replay at O'Connor Park, Tullamore.
Meath 2-21, Carlow 1-9
Normal service was emphatically restored at O'Connor Park, Tullamore on Saturday evening as Meath made no mistake the second time around to dispose of Carlow in their Leinster SFC quarter-final replay.
The reward for this demolition job will be a much stiffer test against Kildare in Croke Park on Sunday 1st July, but on the back of this display Meath will bounce into headquarters with a pep in their step knowing they are on the rise.
Following the below par performance in the drawn encounter Meath came in for a lot of criticism, much of it over the top and way off the mark. On Saturday night most things went right for Meath and that proved to be the key.
As was the case the first day out Carlow needed everything to go their way and hope Meath endured an off day, but that wasn't the case as Carlow's challenge wilted in the second-quarter.
The more Meath strangled the life out of the Carlow challenge the easier the destruction became. Brendan Murphy aside and the odd flourish of abandon from JJ Smith, Carlow never looked like causing Meath problems. Such was Meath's dominance their full-back line was virtually redundant for most of the game.
Aside from the nervous opening quarter, at the end of which Carlow led by 0-4 to 0-3, Meath lorded proceedings. It is no reflection on Brian Meade, but once the Rathkenny man was forced off with an injury and Peadar Byrne (pictured) came on in his place, Meath upped the pace and simply blew Carlow away.
Luke Dempsey's side had a game plan to combat the impact of Meade and Conor Gillespie and in the opening 17 minutes that worked a treat as they lorded the central sector, but Byrne's arrival injected pace and creativity around the middle and with Graham Reilly benefitting Meath ran riot.
After taking the lead in the 17th minute Carlow struggled to sustain their challenge. They didn't score again until three minutes into the second-half and after that Darragh Foley point they didn't register from play again for a further 16 minutes when Keith Jackson rifled a terrific goal.
Meath were clinical, cohesive and calm under pressure, all the things they weren't in the drawn game, and that resulted in this level of a performance.
After a solid opening when he needed to be sharp Kevin Reilly had little to do. Donal Keogan had another excellent outing on Smith, while Bryan Menton's freedom from the wing back role saw him become more influential as the contest progressed.
Once again the concession of a miserly 1-4 from play indicates a solid defensive display and after a shaky opening Meath quickly got to grips at midfield where they created chance after chance.
Nine different Meath players got on the score sheet with 2-15 of the tally coming from play. Joe Sheridan was the only starting forward to fail to score, but that can be forgiven when assessing his work rate, selflessness and the superb volley that ricocheted off the upright.
Since being handed his opportunity in the starting 15 following injuries to Stephen Bray and Paddy Gilsenan, Brian Farrell has been sensational and Saturday night was no different.
The Nobber man kicked points from play with both feet and was supremely accurate with his frees. His link play and willingness to win dirty ball also opened avenues for his colleagues and on this form he will hope the summer run is a long one.
Farrell's contribution was once again complemented brilliantly by Graham Reilly. Between them they kicked 12 points and with Byrne making an amazing impact with two mesmerising goals the Meath attack was on fire.
The only worrying aspect was the 11 wides. Many of those wayward efforts were from scoreable positions, but that is just being pedantic.
The opportunities that were created mostly came about from excellent vision and awareness. The poor decision making that underlined Meath's shocking performance in the drawn game was absent on Saturday, instead all the players were decisive and confident.
Alan Forde settled into his role and was rewarded with a couple of points, but while Byrne and Farrell can be happy with their contributions, first time championship starter Damien Carroll must be delirious.
The Ballinabrackey man enjoyed a dream debut as he showed no nerves, created time and space for himself to set up chances and he also kicked two points to cap a wonderful display.
It really was an evening full of positives for Meath, but in that opening quarter they looked set for a tough test.
With Brendan Murphy running the show, Carlow looked dangerous.
Despite opening the scoring after just nine seconds through Graham Reilly, the Meath players looked nervous as firstly Gillespie fouled Brendan Murphy for a free which Smith converted and then Kevin Reilly fouled Sean Gannon and Brian Murphy pointed to give Carlow a 0-2 to 0-1 lead after eight minutes.
Almost 11 minutes after opening their account Meath registered their second score when Farrell converted a free, but again Carlow piled forward through a worried Meath midfield and Kieran Nolan fisted over the bar to restore their lead. A brilliant point from Farrell restored parity for a second time before a rare error by Keogan allowed Smith the simple task of edging Carlow ahead for the third and final time.
That 0-4 to 0-3 lead lasted three minutes before Farrell levelled it again from a free. Cian Ward added a '45' after Sheridan had a close range goal effort superbly parried out by Trevor O'Reilly.
Enjoying the greater freedom afforded to him by Byrne's 18th minute arrival Gillespie got off the mark with an easy point and when Farrell kicked another brilliant point, this time with the right foot, Meath were in command 0-7 to 0-4.
Seven minutes before the break Carlow's challenge ended when Byrne finished off an excellent move with an equally spectacular shot to put six points between the sides.
Graham Reilly saw his cheeky chip hit the crossbar and bounce on the goal line before being cleared, but Meath continued to pull clear as Carroll, Forde, Menton and Farrell (free) all pointed to give their side a 1-11 to 0-4 interval cushion.
Any threat of complacency was non-existent as Meath started the second-half on the front foot. A superb volley from Sheridan, after great work by Farrell, rattled off the post and a minute later Graham Reilly pointed to put 11 points between the teams.
Foley ended Carlow's 23 minute barren spell with a superb score from distance, but Meath were relentless. Menton forced O'Reilly into another outstanding save before Carroll disposed Shane Redmond to make it 1-13 to 0-5.
The one-way traffic continued with Graham Reilly fisting over a goal chance before adding his fourth point a minute later. Forde punched his second point after Smith converted a free to make it 1-16 to 0-6.
Smith tried to catch out David Gallagher from a 13 metre free, but the Dunboyne man made two brilliant stops to deny the Carlow player a goal. Two minutes later he could do little to keep out Keith Jackson's drive, but that goal was only a minor blip as Meath rang the changes and continued to dominate.
Farrell's response to the concession of the goal was to immediately point and he soon added another to make it 1-18 to 1-7. Another Smith free was followed by Jamie Queeney's opening contribution and when Byrne capitalised on the subsequent poor kickout he blasted a second goal to compound Carlow's misery.
A quickly taken 13-metre free from Brendan Murphy was expertly tipped over the bar by Gallagher to end Carlow's scoring, but there was still time for Queeney and Farrell to add the cherry to the icing on the cake and cap a superb Meath display.
Onwards and upwards.
Meath - B Farrell 0-8 five frees; P Byrne 2-0; G Reilly 0-4; D Carroll 0-2; A Forde 0-2; J Queeney 0-2; C Ward 0-1 '45'; C Gillespie 0-1; B Menton 0-1.
Carlow - JJ Smith 0-5 three frees; K Jackson 1-0; Brendan Murphy 0-1 free; Brian Murphy 0-1 free; K Nolan 0-1; D Foley 0-1.
Meath - David Gallagher; Donal Keogan, Kevin Reilly, Bryan Menton; Donncha Tobin, Shane McAnarney, Mickey Burke; Conor Gillespie, Graham Reilly; Alan Forde, Damien Carroll, Brian Meade; Brian Farrell, Joe Sheridan, Cian Ward. Subs - Peadar Byrne for Meade 17 mins, Eoghan Harrington for K Reilly 59m, Jamie Queeney for G Reilly 61m, Chris O'Connor for Tobin 65m, Mark Collins for Ward 66m.
Carlow - T O'Reilly; P Murphy, C Lawlor, B Kavanagh; K Nolan, S Redmond, T Bolger; Brendan Murphy, D Foley; Brian Murphy, C Murphy, E Ruth; JJ Smith, S Gannon, C Walshe. Subs - B Lambe for Nolan, K Jackson for C Murphy both 42 mins, BJ Molloy for P Murphy 53m, L Sheppard for Foley 60m, P McElligott for Bolger 66m.
Derek Fahy (Longford)