Meath's Jason Daly in control against Westmeath during Saturday's Leinster MFC semi-final at Cusack Park, Mullingar.
Minors set up a double header at Croke Park on Leinster final day
Meath qualified for the Leinster MFC final in fine style at Cusack Park, Mullingar on Saturday evening with a merited victory against Westmeath.
The victory means that there will be two Meath teams in action at Croke Park on Leinster final day on Sunday 22nd July with the seniors set to tackle Dublin while the minors will face either Dublin or Kildare.
Although Meath deserved to win at Cusack Park on Saturday, the margin of victory was flattering and this was by no means a one-sided contest.
That Louth referee Stephen Johnson saw fit to produce three red cards with about five minutes remaining cast an unnecessary shadow over what was a tough and uncompromising contest.
However, the dismissals were influenced by advice from a linesman and an umpire and will rule out Meath's Conor O'Brien, a 52nd minute substitute, for the final.
Westmeath lost Ray Connellan and Bryan O'Donoghue and it was a little ironic that the linesman was able to provide a full report on what happened barely two yards from the incident.
If he had taken two steps forward he may have been able to calm the situation quite easily and that would have averted the subsequent action by the referee?
While Meath will take a lot of heart out of this performance that produced their third away victory in the championship, they will also adopt a cautious approach in the build up for the final as they have plenty of areas where they must find improvement.
The likely return of Shane McEntee, who was unavailable on Saturday due to injury, will be a boost for the final as he is expected to be available for selection on Sunday week.
Defensively Meath looked solid on Saturday with Shane Gallagher slotting in comfortably at left corner back to complete a solid line with the impressive Brian Power and James O'Malley.
Declan Smyth and Ruairi O Coileain were excellent in the wing-back positions and Conor Carton in the opening half and Padraig Harnan after the break made up a formidable half-back line.
The turning point in Saturday's game arrived with about 10 minutes remaining when Westmeath had valiantly reduced the deficit to seven points (1-7 to 2-11).
The hosts were awarded a fortunate penalty after the referee very harshly penalised Meath goalkeeper Jack Hannigan for a foot block on Westmeath full-forward Lorcan Dolan.
Hannigan, who made a number of fine saves and handled confidently throughout, blocked Ger Leech's spot kick and that broke Westmeath's resolve, reflected in the fact that they failed to score for the remainder while Meath added 1-3 for a flattering victory.
However, Meath started smartly and had a goal chance inside 30 seconds, but O Coileain's shot was well saved by Westmeath custodian Brendan Doyle.
All of 30 seconds later Doyle had to retrieve the ball from the net after Barry Dardis finished well from Jason Daly's pass.
Harnan added a point almost instantly, but Westmeath made the scoreboard from a Leech pointed free in the fifth minute.
Meath managed one more point, a free from Fiachra Ward, in the ninth minute as Westmeath rocked the Royals with a Luke Loughlin goal. The same player split the posts and drew the sides level at 1-2 apiece.
Loughlin was causing lots of problems for a brief period, but Meath upped the tempo sufficiently and restricted the hosts to points from Anthony McGivney and Loughlin for the remainder of the half.
Ward added another point and then found the net after Daly made the opening again before O'Sullivan reeled off three splendid points in as many minutes.
Adam Flanagan fielded spectacularly on a number of occasions at midfield which contributed to late points from James McEntee and Harnan as Meath established a 2-8 to 1-4 interval advantage.
Two early pointed Ward frees after the resumption eased Meath further ahead, but Westmeath rallied and Dolan was denied a goal when Hannigan saved smartly at the expense of a '45' before Leech sent over three points and revived his side's chances by the end of the third-quarter.
Under-pressure Meath saw the hosts tally three successive wides before Dardis lifted the siege with a well-taken point ahead of the penalty incident which ultimately paved the way to the provincial decider for the Royal County.
Meath - Jack Hannigan (Donaghmore/Ashbourne); James O'Malley (Navan O'Mahonys), Brian Power (Ratoath), Shane Gallagher (Simonstown Gaels); Declan Smyth (Dunsany), Conor Carton (Donaghmore/Ashbourne), Ruairi O Coileain (Navan O'Mahonys); Padraig Harnan (Jenkinstown Gaels 0-1), Adam Flanagan (Clonard 0-1); Cillian O'Sullivan (Jenkinstown Gaels 0-3), Jason Daly (Dunboyne/Kilbride), James McEntee (St Vincent's / Curraha 0-2); Barry Dardis (Summerhill 2-2), Stephen Coogan (Dunderry), Fiachra Ward (Wolfe Tones 1-5 five frees). Subs - Ciaran Gillespie (Summerhill) for Carton 42 mins, Conor O'Brien (Skryne) for Coogan 52m, Niall Kane (Simonstown Gaels) for O'Malley, Caoimhin O Griofa (Clann na nGael) for Dardis and Alan Garry (Dunderry) for O'Sullivan all 59m.
Westmeath - B Doyle; E O'Reilly, R Gorman, B O'Donoghue; K Daly, L Corless, R Caffrey; D Gaye, A Curley; T Watts, G Leech (0-4 two frees), A McGivney (0-1); L Loughlin (1-2), L Dolan, D McDermott. Subs - PJ Maguire for Gaye 12 mins, R Connellan for McGivney 28m, J Barrett for Curley half-time, S Dempsey for McDermott 42m, TJ Fox for Watts 59m.
Referee - Stephen Johnson (Louth).