FINALLY a win and some points on the board. Kildare travelled to Navan last Saturday night and came out on top after a humdinger of a game and an injury time point from Celbridge’s Ollie Lyons.
It might only be March but this game was played with superb intensity by both teams, who served up some mouth watering football over the course of the 70 plus minutes.
Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare, having suffered two defeats from two, raced out of the traps and led 0-6 to 0-3 after twenty minutes and should have led by more. Points from Shane McAnarney, Chris O’Connor and Stephen Bray brought the sides level some eight minutes later but the Lilies led 0-8 to 0-6 at the break.
After the turnaround both teams went hell for leather for the win and it was neck-in-neck throughout. Edge of the seat stuff and the atmosphere was electric.
By the 38th minute the Royals drew level but three points without response left the Lilies leading 0-11 to 0-8 by the 43rd minute. With one strike, however the home side restored parity thanks to a goal from Oldcastle man Paddy Gilsenan, while substitute Tom Walsh put them in front two minutes later.
There after it was nip and tuck and even another Meath goal, in the 65th minute, couldn’t bury the plucky Lilies. Donnacha Tobin’s goal gave Meath a one point advantage with five left to play but Alan Smith’s point left the sides level once more and in the end Lyons was the hero. The Celbridge man came forward and kept his nerve to fist over David Gallagher’s cross bar and give the Lilies their first, and much needed, win of the campaign.
The star of the show, without any doubt, was Eoghan O’Flaherty, who scored six points and looked altogether more comfortable playing back in the half forward line.
His place at wing back was covered by Hugh McGrillen, while Mick Foley filled the full back berth. The Athy man didn’t have the best of evenings, nor did Andrew McLoughlin but overall this performance was a serious improvement on the last two.
The half back line of Emmet Bolton, Morgan O’Flaherty and McGrillen was well on top, while Peter Kelly, introduced for Foley in the first half, also shone. In attack, aside from O’Flaherty, Tomas O’Connor had a superb 70 minutes, Eamonn Callaghan, as ever, impressed, along with Mikey Conway but James Kavanagh still needs to find form.
It was Meath, however, the got scoring proceedings underway in the second minute when Paddy Gilsenan split the posts but Kildare responded with a point from Tomas O’Connor. The Clane man fisted over before Kildare hit the front thanks to a converted free from the boot of Eoghan O’Flaherty.
Longwood’s Micky Burke was on the end of a fine Meath move in the ninth minute when he raised a white flag to leave the sides level once more but the visitors enjoyed the better of the exchanges for the proceeding minutes and indeed they should have had a goal.
A great run from Eamonn Callaghan saw him off load to Mikey Conway. The Nurney man was bearing down in goal and with only the ‘keeper to beat Kildare’s first goal of the campaign looked to be on the cards, however Conway blasted over and had to be content with the point.
Eoghan O’Flaherty could have also hot the onion bag two minutes later but he too but the ball over the bar to leave Kildare leading 0-4 to 0-2.
A point from Cian Ward, after some poor defending from McLoughlin, left just the minimum in it nut McGrillen and Eoghan O’Flaherty both tagged on points to leave Kildare leading by double scores (0-6 to 0-3) by the twenty minute mark.
That was the biggest lead any side was to have in this encounter, while at the break only two separated the sides with O’Flaherty and Eamonn Callaghan striking over for the Lilies and Stephen Bray doing likewise for Meath to leave the half time score at 0-8 to 0-6 in favour of McGeeney’s men.
Some three minutes in to the final half Meath were back on level terms but three on the trot, from Eoghan O’Flaherty (two) and Paudie O’Neill gave the visitors a 0-11 to 0-8 advantage after 43 minutes but Kildare failed to put the home side away.
Twelve minutes in to the final half Meath grabbed their first of two goals and found themselves back on level terms. Stephen Bray’s ball in from the right was won by substitute Joe Sheridan and he laid the ball off to Gilsenan who made no mistake in firing past Shane Connolly to leave the score at 0-11 to 1-8.
Kildare weren’t rattled despite a Tom Walsh point putting Meath in the lead two minutes later as a point from an Eoghan O’Flaherty free tied it up once more. Gilsenan once again gave Meath a slender lead when his 54th minute shot sailed over. However, Ollie Lyons and O’Flaherty both raised white flags to leave Kildare leading 0-14 to 1-10 with twelve left to play.
As the noise levels inside Pairc Tailteann grew, Stephen Bray levelled it up when he sent over a free from the right after Sheridan was impeded and when his side snatched another goal in the 65th minute it looked like the momentum was with the Royals. Tom Walsh’s ball inside to fellow substitute Donnacha Tobin saw the latter keep his cool to slot the ball past Connolly and give Kildare a one point lead.
As it happened that turned out to be Meath’s last score of the evening but Kildare certainly weren’t finished. Ronan Sweeney’s ball to Alan Smith saw the Sarsfields man add a point to tie it up with four minutes of normal time remaining.
It wasn’t until the second minute of time added on though that the winner came. After surviving a scare down the other end Ollie Lyons bounded forward and held his nerve when he fisted over much to the delight of the travelling support.
With Meath and Galway both losing last weekend Division 2 is wide open once more but Kildare can’t afford any more slip ups.
This Sunday’s game against Derry in Newbridge is a vital one for McGeeney’s team and although last Saturday saw a drastic improvement, there certainly is room for some more too.
Eoghan O’Flaherty 0-6 (3f), Eamonn Callaghan 0-2, Padraig O’Neill 0-2, Ollie Lyons 0-2, Tomas O’Connor 0-1, Daryl Flynn 0-1, Mikey Conway 0-1, Hugh McGrillen 0-1, Morgan O’Flaherty 0-1, Alan Smith 0-1.
Meath – Paddy Gilsenan 1-2, Stephen Bray 0-4 (2f), Donnacha Tobin 1-0, Micky Burke 0-1, Cian Ward 0-1, Shane McAnarney 0-1, Chris O’Connor 0-1, Tom Walsh 0-1.
Shane Connolly; Andrew McLoughlin, Mick Foley, Ollie Lyons; Emmet Bolton, Morgan O’Flaherty, Hugh McGrillen; Daryl Flynn, Padraig O’Neill; Eamonn Callaghan, Eoghan O’Flaherty, Johnny Doyle; Mikey Conway, Tomas O’Connor, James Kavanagh. Subs: Peter Kelly replaced M Foley 24 mins, Ronan Sweeney replaced D Flynn 40 mins, Alan Smith replaced J Kavanagh 51 mins, Ciaran Fitzpatrick replaced A McLoughlin 56 mins, Karl Ennis replaced J Doyle 66 mins.
David Gallagher; Micky Burke, Kevin Reilly, Bryan Menton; Gary O’Brien, Shane McAnarney, Cormac McGuinness; Brian Meade, Mark Ward; Seamus Kenny, Graham Reilly, Chris O’Connor; Paddy Gilsenan, Stephen Bray, Cian Ward. Subs: Donnacha Tobin replaced S McAnarney 25 mins, Joe Sheridan replaced C Ward 38 mins, Tom Walsh replaced C McGuinness 47 mins, Caoimhin King replaced B Meade 47 mins, Graham Geraghty replaced G Reilly 66 mins.
Michael Collins (Cork).