Kennelly strikes Croker goal
Dunderry's Patrick Kennelly staked a claim for 'supersub' status when he fired Meath into the All-Ireland MFC decider with a sensational injury-time goal against Mayo in Sunday's thrilling semi-final at Croke Park. Meath had just got back on terms (1-10 apiece) from Fiachra Ward's 60th minute penalty, awarded by Tyrone referee Cathal O'Hagan who penalised Mayo's Adam Gallagher for a footblock on Cillian O'Sullivan. That decision drew storms of protests from the Mayo players, but despite the pressure kick, Ward managed to steer his effort to the net. With extra-time looming, Meath launched another attack and Ward gained possession on the edge of the Mayo square, but he dropped the ball which fell invitingly for the in-rushing Kennelly who fired on the half-volley to the net. Kennelly, a substitute against Tyrone in the equally dramatic 2-12 to 1-14 All-Ireland quarter-final victory at Newry at the beginning of August, was sent into the action by manager Andy McEntee only seven minutes into the second-half at a time when Meath trailed by seven points (0-6 to 1-10) and were very much on the backfoot. After dominating the opening half in all departments, except on the scoreboard, Meath trailed by 0-6 to 1-7 at the interval and Mayo, who had eliminated All-Ireland champions Tipperary in the previous round, reeled off three unanswered points in as many second-half minutes on Sunday. As the stadium slowly filled up for the senior game between Cork and Donegal, the Meath boys appeared to be facing the exit door as they struggled for scores. However, displaying true Meath grit and determination, the young footballers showed great character in an absorbing second-half as Kennelly and another substitute, Ruairi O Coileain, both played a major role in reviving the Royal County's fortunes. For O Coileain it was a real fairytale return to action for a player who earlier this year successfully addressed Co Board delegates in a plea for a transfer from Dunsany to Navan O'Mahonys. And O Coileain's character surfaced on Sunday when he was thrown into the action only three weeks after he was brought to Navan hospital minutes before the team bus departed for the memorable game in Newry against Tyrone. "We didn't start Ruairi as we felt he only had about 20 minutes in him," Meath manager Andy McEntee told the Meath Chronicle outside a jubilant Meath dressing room at Croke Park as the players celebrated and started to look forward to an All-Ireland final appearance on Sunday 23rd September. There was also joy for the Meath camogie players on Saturday when they earned an All-Ireland final ticket at the fourth attempt after losing semi-finals in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Meath will play Down at Croke Park in the All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie final on Sunday 16th September. To read full match report and quotes see this week's Meath Chronicle.