Cassidy brings late joy for Derry with injury-time brace of scores
Derry 3-16 Meath 3-14
A powerful finish from Derry, which included two huge scores from Brian Cassidy in injury time, was enough to edge out Meath in dramatic fashion at Trim.
Trailing 3-14 to 3-12 after the hour, the Oakleafers reeled off the last four points of the game to win by two and progress to this year's All Ireland Under 21B final.
Richie Mullan top scored for the winners, hitting 1-7, with the Kevin Lynch's man finding ample support from Brian Cassidy, Darragh Cartin and Corey O'Reilly.
Substitute Cian Rodgers, with 1-5, top scored for Meath with Daithi McGowan and Mickey Mullen scoring the other goal for the Royals.
Daithi McGowan's goal, punishing a defensive howler from Derry, was the last action of the first half, but it was very much the visitors' opening 30 minutes. Goals from Brian Cassidy in the 10th minute and Richie Mullan soon after, backboned a powerful half from Collie McGurk's men who led 2-7 to 1-5 at the break.
"We controlled the first half," said Derry manager Collie McGurk.
"Shane McGuigan had a powerful game there. But even in the second half I was so proud of the players for the way they battled when it was going the other way and the game was gone for us.
"They hung in and they hung in and got us over the line."
The second half saw Meath gradually reeled Derry in. Impact sub Cian Rodgers was the catalyst for the Royals' revival, banging home their second goal in the 31st minute.
And when Mickey Mullen scored a third straight after, it gave the home side the lead for the first time in the match at 3-6 to 2-8 in the 36th minute.
Derry recovered through the free-taking accuracy of Richie Mullan and a Darragh Cartin goal, and with five minutes to go the teams were level at 3-12 apiece.
A Jarlath Ennis appeared to give Meath the upper hand in the home straight, but huge points from Slaughtneil men Shane McGuigan and Brian Cassidy brought late, late joy for the Oakleafers.
"We blew ourselves out a wee bit in the first half," explained manager Collie McGurk after the dramatic win.
"And Meath came on strong with three quick goals. The game seemed to be going away from us. But the fellas showed character.
"The subs that came on did very well for us and gave us that wee bit of edge when we needed it most."
Referring to the recent tragic loss of player Aodhan O'Donnell, McGurk concluded: "Meath are a good side.
"They're Joe McDonagh standard and it's a good scalp to take considering what we've been through this last few weeks."
Scorers - Derry: R Mullan 1-7 (0-6fs), B Cassidy 1-4 (0-2 fs), D Cartin 1-1, C O'Reilly 0-3, S McGuigan
Meath: C Rodgers 1-5 (0-4fs), M Mullen 1-1, J Ennis 0-3, D McGowan 1-0, B Dowling 0-2, C Gorman, C Fitzpatrick and R Ryan 0-1 each
Derry: D Quinn, N Smith, C Kelly, E Gilmore, J Mullan, S McGuigan, R McCartney, C McAllister, S Cassidy, D Cartin, E O'Kane, P Burke, R Mullan, B Cassidy, C O'Reilly
Subs: L Cassidy for P Burke (38), T Magee for N Smith (50), O McKeever for C O'Reilly (58)
Meath: A Dunne, I Hughes, C Wall, A Feeney, S McCann, R Ryan, S Coffey, P Slevin, P Lally, B Dowling, D McGowan, J Ennis, S Gibbons, C Fitzpatrick, C Gorman
Subs: H Smith for C Wall (14), C Rodgers for C Gorman (25), M Mullen for S Gibbons (HT), J Leavy for A Feeney (44)
Referee: G McGrath (Wexford)
Derry: B McKinless; N Keenan 0-1, B Rogers, K McKaigue; C McFaul 0-1, C McKaigue, C McWilliams 0-1; C McAtamney, D Heavron 0-1 (1f); R Bell, N Lou