Kildare proved far too strong for Laois at O’Connor Park, Tullamore, as Cian O’Neill’s side cruised to a comprehensive 1-21 to 1-7 victory.
The Lilywhites were good value for their 0-12 to 1-2 half-time lead having had first use of the wind, despite Donie Kingston finding the back of the Kildare net inside the opening minute.
But the elements couldn’t propel Laois to a second half comeback as their forward line failed to fire and Kildare were able to ease very comfortably into the last four.
It was a dominant display from Kildare, for whom star man Daniel Flynn (1-3), – the former AFL player who was making his first Kildare start in the championship since 2013 – Cathal McNally and Neil Kelly (0-3 each) were their scorers in chief.
Flynn’s goal in the 47th minute put paid to any thoughts of a fightback by Laois, who’d impressed in their win over Longford and which suggested they might push Kildare a bit closer.
“Pleased with the performance overall, have to be pleased with that,” said Kildare manager Cian O’Neill.
“We struggled to get a stranglehold on the game in the first quarter. I thought they were bringing more to it . . . but once the players settled into the game plan we’re trying to execute I think we were in a stronger position going into second quarter. That’s when we took off.
“A lot of people were questioning where the scores were going to come from. We’ve a couple of injuries – missing Ben McCormack and Neil Flynn. But lads came and put their hand up, as they have done in training in the last couple of weeks. Everyone contributed in a huge way. That’s really pleasing.”
Laois manager Peter Creedon, said: “We weren’t in a bad position after 20, 25 minutes, but Kildare kicked on with four points before half-time which put us on the back foot.
“Look, I’m disappointed for the players. We felt we had an opportunity here today and Kildare managed to put us away quite easily in the end.”
The Lilywhites, who won promotion to Division 1 earlier this year, will now meet Meath on 17 June, with Kildare targeting a first Leinster final appearance since 2009.
The Royals overcame Louth 0-27 to 3-9 at Parnell Park, although Louth had threatened a first Championship win over Meath for 42 years.
Louth led 2-9 to 0-13 with 22 minutes left, only for Meath to finish as strongly as Wings Of Eagles in the Epsom Derby.
The Royal County, who are looking for a first Leinster title since 2010, outscored Louth by 0-14 to 1-0 in a devastating final 20 minute period, to which their opponents had no answer.
Louth were simply unable to deal with the power and pace of Meath’s attack in the final quarter of the game, for whom captain Graham Reilly led by example with seven points, while Donal Lenihan contributed 0-6 (0-3f, 1 45) and James Toher 0-5 (0-3f).
“I put my hand up for this job, and I’d hate to get off to a losing start,” said Meath manager McEntee, for whom this was his first championship victory.
“We did finish strong and that doesn’t surprise me. The guys have done an awful lot of work with John Coghlan (Meath’s fitness coach).
“I’ve sung his praises for long enough at this stage. I have no doubt the fellas have a lot more in their tanks still, they probably could have gone on for a little bit longer if they’d had to.
“And I think the thing that we’re trying to convince fellas of is that in the last 10 minutes we’re okay and we can win games in the last 10 minutes and that proved to be today, we looked stronger in a lot of areas in the last 10 minutes.
“Sure, it’s nice to get it across the line because you never know.”