THE script was unravelled. Kildare were shell shocked. Astounded even. Meath were on fire and it is to the qualifiers the Lilies once more go. An upset, a turn up for the books, call it what you want but the Royals were full value for their six point victory. Kildare, on the other hand, were poor. Lacking. Disjointed, writes Ruth Chambers.
The performance, more so than defeat itself, was the most disappointing aspect. Cleaned out in the middle of the park, in fact torn asunder right through the middle, a serious amount of possession wasted and no plan B when it was quite obvious plan A wasn’t working.
Of course the major turning point of last Sunday’s semi final was the 52nd minute dismissal of Daryl Flynn. At that point the teams were neck-in-neck, both had eleven points on the board. Flynn certainly deserved a yellow card for his challenge on young Damien Carroll but his first, some nine minutes beforehand, was unjustified.
From there Meath, like a wounded animal, kicked on and in truth produced exhibition stuff to blow the Lilies out of the water, out of the provincial championship and in the back door.
Kildare needed leaders but they didn’t show up. Captain Johnny Doyle wasn’t at the races and indeed was replaced by Larries’ Podge Fogarty with 20 minutes remaining. Eoghan O’Flaherty quiet, James Kavanagh and Paudie O’Neill similar, take your pick really with the exception of one or two. Emmet Bolton, as always, gave it his all, Alan Smith, when moved closer to goals, had a superb opening to the second half and Morgan O’Flaherty was his consistent self but otherwise it was lifeless, lack lustre and lousy.
Credit to Meath though. Nobody gave them a chance. They clearly thought otherwise. When their team was announced earlier in the week many believed Tomás O’Connor would have a field day in the absence of Kevin Reilly and against a extremely inexperienced full back line. Quite the contrary.
O’Connor was threatening by times but more often than not Kildare’s long ball tactic back fired. In the corner Donal Keoghan was immense, as was Donnacha Tobin in front of him.
In midfield Summerhill’s Conor Gillespie ran the show, while in attack young guns Alan Forde and Damien Carroll were outstanding. Brian Farrell kept the scoreboard ticking over from frees, Joe Sheridan showed glimpses of his class and Graham Reilly stood up to the mark.
The Royals too packed a punch with their substitutions. Peadar Byrne, a replacement for Brian Meade, grabbed their goal, Jamie Queeney, despite only coming on in the 68th minute, knocked over two frees but it was the introduction of Navan O’Mahoney’s man Stephen Bray that was perhaps the most inspired of Banty’s five substitutions.
Bray was crucial in the lead up to the Royals’ 60th minute goal. In truth there should have been a free awarded against him for a foul on Paudie O’Neill but instead Cork referee chose to ignore it and signalled for a throw ball, when in fact Forde should have been also penalised for over carrying. Joe Sheridan won it and in the blink of an eye Peadar Byrne had rifled a shot past Shane Connolly. Bray though, did so much more for his team, he came in really mucked in.
Kildare showed two changes to the team that was named earlier in the week with Alan Smith and Flynn coming in for Eoin Doyle and Rob Kelly respectively, while Meath started as selected with a young and largely inexperienced line up.
Carbury’s Morgan O’Flaherty was the man that got Kildare’s first attack underway, an attack that led to the game’s opening score with just 27 second on the clock. When Paudie O’Neill was fouled in the middle O’Flaherty picked out Hugh McGrillen with his free and the Celbridge man kicked in a long ball. On the end of it was Tomás O’Connor and he quickly laid the ball off to the over lapping James Kavanagh who duly split the posts.
The Lilies were up and running.
Things looked to be going to plan, 19-year-old Alan Forde saw his effort go wide, Brian Farrell missed a free, while Cian Ward saw his ’45’ sail off target and out.
The Lilies then doubled their advantage when Tomás O’Connor broke the ball for Emmet Bolton and the Eadestown man split the posts. A minute later though Meath were off the mark. Joe Sheridan provided possession for Damien Carroll and he raised a white flag to leave the minimum (0-2 to 0-1) between the sides.
By the 13th minute Meath were back on level terms when a quick free, taken by Donnacha Tobin found Micky Burke and the Longwood man off loaded to Sheridan, who knocked over his first of three.
Meath kicked the next two scores without reply to lead 0-4 to 0-2 but Mikey Conway responded with a free and when Graham Reilly was caught in possession the Lilies capitalised when Johnny Doyle kicked over a beauty of a point.
The first period was a real nip and tuck affair and Meath edged in front in the 19th minute thanks to Brian Farrell’s free. Meath’s direct running really hurt Kildare during this period and when Farrell converted two further frees Meath led 0-7 to 0-4 by the 24th minute.
At the other end Eoghan O’Flaherty converted three frees on the trot to level proceedings by the 34th minute but before the half time whistle Meath got their noses back in front thanks to a lovely point from Sheridan.
In the third and final minute of time added on Cian Ward unleashed a shot from the 45 metre line and just as he let fly Michael Collins bizarrely blew for the break. As it turned out Ward’s shot was short but nonetheless Collins’ decision to blow when he did was just one of many wrong decisions he made.
Meath led 0-8 to 0-7 at half time, the Royals had put in a good first innings but Kildare were expected power their opponents out of it in the second but Meath were not and did not lie down. They rose to the occasion.
Kildare did however start the second well, while Meath were guilty of squandering chances. A Tomás O’Connor point restored parity, while an Alan Smith brace left Kildare leading 0-10 to 0-8.
The sides then swapped points with Reilly striking over for Meath and Smith getting his third before Brian Farrell added one from play and Sheridan kicked over a 45 and Meath were back level just a minute before Flynn received a second yellow.
The resultant free, following Flynn tackle on Damien Carroll, was converted by Farrell and Meath had a slender advantage (0-12 to 0-11), but Kildare had a fantastic response.
A shot from Emmet Bolton came off the angle of the cross bar and the upright, Tomas O’Connor was on to the loose ball like a light and did well to keep the ball in play. The Clane man then picked out Eoghan O’Flaherty and his quick thinking found Conway. The Nurney man’s shot was saved by ‘keeper David Gallagher but the ball then ricocheted off Mickey Burke and in to the net to give the 14 man Lilies a 1-11 to 0-12 lead after 55 minutes.
Meath simply wouldn’t go away though and just a minute later Brian Farrell split the posts before Graham Reilly let the sides level once more (1-11 to 0-14).
With ten remaining Meath delivered the killer blow though. Joe Sheridan won a throw ball, Damien Carroll then grabbed possession before passing inside to Peadar Byrne and hi right footed shot went passed Shane Connolly like a bullet and gave Meath a 1-14 to 1-11 lead.
Try as they did Kildare thereafter Kildare were dead and buried as Meath played with great swagger and confidence. A triple substitution saw Earley, Callaghan and Sweeney enter the fray but it was way too late to stem the tide.
Byrne tagged on Meath 15th point, while Jamie Queeney, literally on second, got on the scoreboard and indeed added a second in the final minute to ensure the six point victory and an utterly dismal day for Kieran McGeeney and Kildare.
Kildare, Mikey Conway 1-1 (1f), Eoghan O’Flaherty 0-3 (3f), Alan Smith 0-3, James Kavanagh 0-1, Emmet Bolton 0-1, Johnny Doyle 0-1, Tomas O’Connor 0-1.
Meath, Brian Farrell 0-6 (4f), Joe Sheridan 0-3 (1 ’45’), Graham Reilly 0-3, Peadar Byrne 1-0, Jamie Queeney 0-2, Alan Forde 0-1, Damien Carroll 0-1, Stephen Bray 0-1.
Shane Connolly; Hugh McGrillen, Mick Foley, Peter Kelly; Emmet Bolton, Morgan O’Flaherty, Ollie Lyons; Padraig O’Neill, Daryl Flynn; James Kavanagh, Mikey Conway, Alan Smith; Johnny Doyle, Tomas O’Connor, Eoghan O’Flaherty. Subs: Podge Fogarty replaced J Doyle 50 mins, Rob Kelly replaced J Kavanagh 60 mins, Ronan Sweeney replaced P O’Neill 62 mins, Dermot Earley replaced T O’Connor 62 mins, Eamonn Callaghan replaced M Conway 62 mins.
David Gallagher; Donal Keoghan, Bryan Menton, Ciaran Lenihan; Donnacha Tobin, Shane McAnarney, Micky Burke; Conor Gillespie, Brian Meade; Alan Forde, Damien Carroll, Graham Reilly; Brian Farrell, Joe Sheridan, Cian Ward. Subs: Eoin Harrington replaced C Lenihan 18 mins, Stephen Bray replaced C Ward 41 mins, Peadar Byrne replaced B Meade 47 mins, Kevin Reilly replaced B Menton (inj) 66 mins, Jamie Queeney replaced A Forde 68 mins.
Michael Collins (Cork).