Meath won the Leinster JFC title in a dramatic final against Kildare in the Croke Park curtainraiser today with a 2-14 to 0-18 victory.
The Royal County was hanging on in the closing stages, but had enough in the tank to make amends for the disappointment of last year's reversal at the same stage by the Lilywhites.
Played at an electrifying pace in the opening half, Meath shaded the early exchanges with goals from Ruairi O Coileain and Kevin Ross in the 12th and 13th minutes proving crucial.
Kildare's Jack Robinson was a constant threat with his probing runs earning a 20th minute yellow card for Meath defender Darren Gibney.
At the other end O Coileain's ability was a key factor as the Royal County established a 2-7 to 0-7 interval advantage.
Carnaross man Frank O'Reilly sent over three points, a free, a '45' and one from play, with Jason Scully, Danny Quinn, James Cassidy and O Coileain completing the tally.
Kildare wasted some easy-looking point chances as the half progressed, but hit the target through a brace each from Robinson and Padraig Nash (frees) while Eoghan Lawless, Daniel Grehan and Mark Grace also split the Meath posts.
Meath dominated the third-quarter despite a spirited Kildare effort and they were ahead by 2-12 to 0-11 at that stage as Scully, O'Reilly, Ross (free), O Coileain and Stephen Coogan all registered points.
MEATH PLAYERS CELEBRATING AT CROKE PARK
Kildare, following the introduction of former senior star Johnny Doyle, kept chipping away with three Robinson points, one a Hawkeye verdict, and one from substitute Shane O'Rourke sustaining their challenge.
The Kildare men upped the tempo significantly as Meath began to struggle and five unanswered points got them back into contention by the 58th minute when four minutes of added time was announced.
Substitute Barry Noone claimed two from play with Robinson, Nash (free) and O'Rourke also on the mark, but just when Meath needed a score they got one when Ross sent over after O'Reilly made the opening.
Kildare countered again and made it a one-point game through points from that man Robinson again and Nash (free).
Once more Meath found a response and when O Coileain embarked on a lengthy run he earned a free that was expertly converted by that man from Carnaross, O'Reilly, to take his tally for the hour to five.
Meath - Ruairi O Coileain 1-2; Frank O'Reilly 0-5 two frees, one '45; Kevin Ross 1-2 one free; Jason Scully 0-2; Danny Quinn 0-1; James Cassidy 0-1; Stephen Coogan 0-1;
Kildare - Jack Robinson 0-7; Padraig Nash 0-4 frees;Shane O'Rourke 0-2; Barry Noone 0-2; Eoghan Lawless 0-1; Daniel Grehan 0-1; Mark Grace 0-1.