Brave Meath come up short in Croke Park thriller

While defeat was ultimately their lot, Meath came away from Croke Park today with a sense of restored pride as they pushed Dublin, seven-in-a-row All-Ireland chasing Dublin, all the way in this exciting Leinster SFC semi-final before losing 1-13 to 2-16.

The six-point margin of defeat is harsh on Meath as they recovered from 11 points down at half-time to close to within three by the 68th minute.

However in the closing seven minutes, that included five minutes of injury-time, Dublin dug deep into their wealth of experience and retained possession to frustrate Meath.

As Meath pressed to regain possession little gaps started to appear and Brian Fenton, Cormac Costello and Ciaran Kilkenny took full advantage to put the issue beyond doubt in injury-time.

For most of the first quarter Meath gamely stuck with Dublin despite conceding a goal from a dubious penalty awarded after Brian Fenton went down under minimal contact from Mathew Costello.

Three minutes before that penalty goal, Meath had claims for a penalty waved away when Bryan McMahon was clearly fouled - one such small margins massive outcomes hang.

Dublin started impressively and moved the ball around with ease and confidence, making little of the pre-match rumours they might be lacking in that department.

A swift move saw Con O'Callaghan open the scoring in the fourth minute and 90 seconds later Dean Rock marked his return to the starting line-up with a converted free.

Eamon Wallace struck Meath's opening score from a swift attack, but within two minutes Dublin were on the prowl again with Cosmac Costello having an effort cleared off the line before Ciaran Kilkenny tapped over the loose ball to make it 0-3 to 0-1.

Another counter-attack saw McMahon close the deficit to the minimum in the ninth minute and seconds later Meath had appeals for a penalty turned down when McMahon looked to be fouled as he followed by Morris's parried shot.

Dublin took advantage of that let off with Costello fisting over and in the 13th minute referee Conor Lane award a penalty as Fenton hit the ground.

Costello gave championship debutant goalkeeper Harry Hogan no chance from the spot to make it 1-4 to 0-2.

Meath's response to that setback was impressive as Costello converted a massive free from 48 metres before Morris added a point to close the gap to three points at the water break, 0-4 to 1-4.

When play resumed, Dublin hit another level as Paddy Small, Kilkenny and Costello tapped over points at their leisure and when Fenton and Rock combined to free O'Callaghan the Cuala man blasted a brilliant goal to make it 2-7 to 0-4.

O'Callaghan added another brace of points and Kilkenny clipped over his third to make it 2-10 to 0-4 and even though Meath replied with the next two points from Wallace and Costello it was Dublin who secured a 2-11 to 0-6 interval lead with Rock scoring at his leisure.

Meath gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Costello finished expertly to the net and after Fenton was denied by Hogan Meath kicked on with scores from Morris (two) and Joey Wallace (two) to close the gap to 1-10 to 2-11.

Points from Kilkenny and Costello either side of a superb score from Cillian O'Sullivan stretched Dublin's lead to 2-13 to 1-11 at the second water break.

Tired limbs started tell in the final quarter and it took almost 12 minutes after the restart for the next score when James McEntee converted a '45' after Evan Comerford parried a Ronan Jones effort.

Thomas O'Reilly converted a free to make it a one score game, 1-13 to 2-13, but that was as good as it got for Meath as Dublin held possession and eased across the finish line.

Dublin: E Comerford; M Fitzsimons, D Byrne, J Cooper; P O Cofaigh-Byrne, B Howard, S McMahon; B Fenton (0-1), J McCarthy; D Rock (0-2 one free), C Kilkenny (0-5), N Scully; P Small (0-1), C O'Callaghan (1-3), C Costello (1-4 1-0 penalty). Subs: T Lahiff for O Cofaigh-Byrne half-time, S Bugler for Small 50 mins, C Basquel for Rock 62m, C Murphy for McMahon 74m.

Meath: H Hogan; S Lavin, C McGill, D Keogan; C Hickey, S McEntee, F Reilly; B Menton, P Harnan; E Wallace (0-2), B McMahon (0-1), M Costello (1-2 one free); J Morris (0-3 one free), C O'Sullivan (0-1), J Wallace (0-1). Subs: R Jones for Reilly 28 mins, T O'Reilly (0-1 free) for McMahon half-time, James McEntee (0-1 '45') for Hickey 54m, Ethan Devine for Costello 58m.

Referee: C Lane (Cork).