Execution of goal chances proved to be decisive as Meath booked their place in their first Leinster SFC final since 2014 with a resounding 3-13 to 0-11 victory over determined Laois at Croke Park this afternoon.
Two exquisite finishes from Bryan Menton and a superbly struck penalty from Mickey Newman ensured Meath's comfortable passage, but Laois were left to rue missed goal chances for Kieran Lillis, Colm Murphy and Donie Kingston.
Laois dominated the possession stakes in the early stages, but Meath's defensive line stood strong and after Seamus Lavin put them ahead in the second minute they defended resolutely with a line of seven across the middle to force Laois to shoot, poorly, from distance.
After kicking three wides and dropping one short in the opening 10 minutes Laois eventually got off the mark from an Evan O'Carroll free in the 15th minute, which was harshly awarded against Conor McGill.
James Conlon found his range after one earlier effort dropped short to restore Meath's lead a minute later, but Laois looked rattled as O'Carroll kicked another couple of wides including from a close range free.
Conlon's excellence made it 0-3 to 0-1 before another strange call by referee Joe McQuillan gifted O'Carroll his second converted free.
Again it was Conlon who kicked his third successive point to make it 0-4 to 0-1 in the 21st minute, but Laois found a bit of room in front of the posts with Murphy kicking an excellent point before fisting over a second three minutes later to make it 0-4 each.
A superb run by Donal Keogan ended with Conlon tapping over his fourth and in the 27th minute Cillian O'Sullivan went close the grabbing the first goal as his mesmerising run ended with him shooting narrowly wide.
A foul by Shane Gallagher on Murphy handed O'Carroll his third pointed free, but that was his last action as he was replaced by Donie Kingston.
A minute later Meath took control of the contest with another outstanding run by O'Sullivan setting up Menton for an excellent goal to make it 1-5 to 0-5.
Donie Kingston marked his appearance with a quick point and was lucky to only see yellow when he 'celebrated' in close proximity to Gallagher.
Bryan McMahon tapped over after Menton's excellent surge to put three between the teams again, but Donie Kingston set up Daniel O'Reilly for a fine score before Meath grabbed their second goal when Keogan brilliantly gathered Mickey Newman's 'up-and-under' and was hauled down by Graham Brody.
Newman made no mistake with a bullet from the penalty spot to ensure a 2-6 to 0-7 interval lead for the Royals.
Laois did have their chances after the resumption to claw back the deficit when Paul Kingston ghosted through, but he fired straight at Andy Colgan.
Donie Kingston lofted over a point and in the 40th minute Murphy rattled the crossbar with a stinging drive. Donie Kingston added another free to make it a one-score game, 0-9 to 2-6, and Laois looked back in the hunt.
However, after extending their half-time break by almost 15 minutes more brilliant work by Keogan kept the ball alive and he was then fouled which led to Meath's only point from a free from Newman.
That score was a settling one.
O'Sullivan made it 2-8 to 0-9 to restore Meath's half-time cushion and even after Donie Kingston kicked another free, Meath hit the next three scores from O'Sullivan, McMahon and Conlon to put seven points between the sides.
Laois continued to prove to be a threat, but Colgan made an excellent save to deny Donie Kingston a goal and just 90 seconds later Menton bagged his second goal after great work by McMahon and Shane McEntee - game over.
An error from the kickout led to Graham Reilly opening his account and after Ross Munnelly grabbed a point back it was fitting that Keogan capped another memorable display with the closing point of a decent performance.
Meath – Bryan Menton 2-0; James Conlon 0-5; Mickey Newman 1-1 1-0 penalty, one free; Bryan McMahon 0-2; Cillian O'Sullivan 0-2; Graham Reilly 0-1; Donal Keogan 0-1; Seamus Lavin 0-1.
Laois – Donie Kingston 0-4 two frees; Evan O'Carroll 0-3 frees; Colm Murphy 0-2; Daniel O'Reilly 0-1; Ross Munnelly 0-1.
Meath - Andy Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; Donal Keogan, Ronan Ryan, Gavin McCoy; Bryan Menton, Adam Flanagan; James McEntee, Bryan McMahon, Ben Brennan; James Conlon, Mickey Newman, Cillian O'Sullivan Subs – Graham Reilly for McCoy 47 mins, Shane McEntee for Flanagan 52, Sean Tobin for Brennan 54m, Thomas O'Reilly for Newman 63m, Thomas McGovern for Gallagher 65m, Ethan Devine for Menton 68m.
Laois – Graham Brody; Stephen Attride, Denis Booth, Gareth Dillon; Sean O'Flynn, Robert Pigott, Patrick O'Sullivan; John O'Loughlin, Kieran Lillis; Daniel O'Reilly, Conor Boyle, Damien O'Connor; Paul Kingston, Colm Murphy, Evan O'Carroll. Subs – Donie Kingston for O'Carroll 29 mins, Martin Scully for Boyle 45m, Trevor Collins for O'Flynn 54m, Eoin Lowry for O'Reilly, Ross Munnelly for O'Connor both 58m, Brendan Quigley for Lillis 64m.
Referee – Joe McQuillan (Cavan).