JUST a week after the Kildare footballers secured promoted the county’s hurlers did likewise when they beat Meath in the Allianz Hurling League Division 2B final at Parnell Park last Sunday evening, writes Ruth O’Brien.
Sometimes teams need a bit of luck to claim silverware and that’s exactly what Willie Sunderland’s side got in the second half. Two fortuitous goals were scored after the turnaround and in truth the final scoreline flatters to deceive. Not that it matters one bit now because the Lilies are up and they will now turn their attention to the Christy Ring Cup opener against Derry with confidence.
Kildare already met Meath in the 2012 in the opening round in Navan and came away with a victory and the Royals were certainly out for revenge and for a long time they were the better team. The Lilies failed to score from play during the opening 35 minutes and there were some harsh words spoken in the dressing room at the interlude. Thereafter Kildare showed slight signs of improvement and it was three second half goals that ensured the titles was going back to the shortgrass county.
Having trailed by one (1-5 to 0-7) at the break, Sunderland’s side grabbed their first goal some nine minutes in to the second half. It came from Celbridge’s Tony Murphy and it gave Kildare a two point advantage. It only took their opponents a minute to restore parity however with a brace of points from frees courtesy of midfield man Stephen Clynch.
By the 63rd minute Kildare found themselves in front by the minimum but it was soon to be four when their first of two late goals came.
A free in from Ardclough’s Richie Hoban caused problems for the Royal’s rearguard, in particular full back Damien Healy, who was caught on the line and Hoban’s free sailed all the way to the net to give Kildare a 2-12 to 1-11 lead.
Things got even better for the Lilies two minutes later with the arrival of their third goal. A ball in from Danny Butler looked likely to be cleared but when Tony Murphy blocked down that clearance Martin Fitzgerald was on hand to strike the loose ball to the net to ensure a highly flattering final scoreline, promotion and the title for the Lilies.
In truth this encounter was much closer than the final scoreline suggests. At the interval Kildare trailed by one and up until the two late goals they were neck in neck with their fellow Leinster opponents. Sunderland’s side have played a lot better during the campaign and will, hopefully, play a lot better again this coming summer but as they say, a win is a win is a win.
During the opening 35 minutes Kildare were guilty of running in to the tackle instead of shooting and indeed found themselves behind with only 43 seconds on the clock when the Royals opened their account with with a free to the right of the posts from Noel Kirby.
Early parity was restored soon after however, when Danny Butler raised a white flag from a sideline ball out on the right, while the Lilies took the lead on nine minutes thanks to a converted free, from distance, from Richie Hoban.
With 17 minutes played there was nothing to separate the sides (0-4 to 0-4). Two frees, popped over by Confey man Paul Divilly, added to Kildare’s tally, while Sean Heavey scored the first point of the game from play followed by a converted free from Kirby.
The Royals, managed by Cillian Farrell, hit the front in the 20th minute when Kirby again split the posts from a free two without response from the Lilies left them leading 0-6 to 0-5 with ten minutes of the half remaining.
Kildare doubled their advantage when Paul Divilly sent over a free from 46 metres out but before the break Sunderland’s side were dealt a blow. Substitute Colm O Mealoid hit the onion bag in the 32nd minute to give Meath a 1-5 t 0-7 half time lead.
A run from Derek Doran and subsequent shot was blocked but O Mealoid was on to the loose ball in a flash and sent it to the net to give his side the lead.
Early in the second the Royals stretched their lead to two when O Mealoid was fouled by Mark Moloney and Stephen Clynch knocked over the free to leave the score at 1-6 to 0-7. Indeed Kildare were lucky not to be further in arrears and have their goalkeeper Paul Dermody to thank for that when he made a point black save from Derek Doran four minutes in to the half.
Kildare reduced the deficit soon after thanks to another free from Divilly and two minutes later they were level when Martin Fitzgerald struck over from the right hand side.
Things got even better for the Lilies in the 44th minute when Conor Kenny’s shot dropped short but Tony Murphy was on hand to get the touch that registered Kildare’s first goal of the afternoon and left the score at 1-8 to 1-6.
Meath just wouldn’t go away though and were very quickly back on level terms. They thought they had grabbed a second goal in the 52nd minute but Nicky Horan was adjudged to have been in the square and it was disallowed, however they were level some minutes later thanks to a point (free) from Kirby and when the Kildalkey man converted another free in the 60 minute the Royals led by the minimum (1-11 to 1-10).
A grandstand finish appeared to be on the cards and with seven minutes remaining Kildare led by just one but the two aforementioned goals certainly put paid to that grandstand finish.
With five minutes left to play Kildare stretched their lead to four when Ross Kelly was fouled by Kirby. The resultant free, from the 65 metre line, was sent in by Richie Hoban and Damien Healy looked to have it converted. However the Meath man took his eye off the ball for a second and Hoban’s shot went past him and in to the net to leave the scoreboard reading 2-12 to 1-11.
Things got even better for the Lilies with three minutes remaining when Danny Butler’s ball in caused confusion. Tony Murphy blocked down a clearance and Martin Fitzgerald pounced, struck the ball past Shane McGann in the Meath goal and gave Kildare a seven point (3-12 to 1-11) advantage.
Before the final whistle the sides swapped points with Clynch and Fitzgerald striking over respectively but it was most definitely too little to late for Meath and it was Kildare who secured promotion and the Division 2B title.
Kildare, Paul Divilly 0-6 (6f), Martin Fitzgerald 1-2, Richie Hoban 1-1 (1f), Tony Murphy 1-0, Danny Butler 0-2 (1 sideline), Mark Moloney 0-1, Johnny Enright 0-1.
Meath, Noel Kirby 0-6 (6f), Stephen Clynch 0-4 (4f), Colm O Mealoid 1-0, Sean Heavey 0-1, James Kelly 0-1.
Paul Dermody; Paudie Reidy, Fiachra O’Muineachain cpt., John Doran; Kieran Divilly, Richie Hoban, Neill O’Muineachain; Danny Butler, Mark Moloney; Conor Kenny, Paul Divilly, David Harney; Martin Fitzgerald, Tony Murphy, Leo Quinn. Subs: Johnny Enright replaced L Quinn HT, John O’Malley replaced K Divilly 47 mins, Ross Kelly replaced D Harney 49 mins.
Shane McGann; Cormac Reilly, Damien Healy, Stephen Morris; James Togher, Paul Fagan, Enda Keogh; Stephen Clynch, Stephen Donoghue; Sean Heavey, Noel Kirby, Eoin Marsh; James Kelly, Derek Doran, Peter Durnin. Subs: Colm O Mealoid replaced E Marsh 19 mins, Ciaran Fitzsimons replaced s Donoghue 41 mins, Nicky Horan replaced P Durnin 48 mins, Mickey Cole replaced J Kelly 64 mins, Keith Keoghan replaced S Heavey 69 mins.
Eamon Hasson (Derry).