NINE points was the gap as 14 man Laois inflicted an opening day defeat on Kildare in round one of the Allianz National Hurling League Division 2A at St Conleth’s Park last Sunday afternoon.
Allianz Hurling League Division 2A Round 1
The visitors had substitute Willie Dunphy shown a straight red card after he struck Paudie Reidy off the ball with seven minutes remaining but it mattered little as the O’Moore men finished out this opening round encounter strongly.
With 15 minutes left to play Laois had a six point advantage but that was after they recovered from a mini Kildare revival early in the second half. At the break the Lilies trailed 1-10 to 1-4 after a first half that saw them lack the same physicality of their opponents. Points from Mark Moloney, captain Paul Divilly (free) and Gerry Keegan reduced the deficit to four some eight minutes in to the second half. However they could never get to within real touching distance of the O’Moore men and with captain Paul Divilly off form on the day, despite scoring 1-5, the Lilies were always going to be up against it against a team playing at a higher level for a number of years now.
Kildare boss Willie Sunderland made two changes in personnel to the team he named earlier in the week with Paudie Reidy and Ross Kelly coming in for Eanna O’Neill and Peadar Downey. Reidy went in at wing back, with Celbridge’s Niall O’Muineachain slotting in to the middle and Kelly lining out at wing forward.
The visitors drew first blood with just three minutes on the clock when Stephen Maher converted a free from 43 metres out but it was cancelled out by a Paul Divilly free after Matthew Whelan was penalised for over carrying.
Thereafter Laois assumed control and struck five points on the trot to open up a 0-6 to 0-1 advantage. Kildare weren’t without their chances, however a few of them, from frees, were let go abegging.
In saying that the Lilies were right back on track with 17 minutes played when they grabbed the game’s opening goal. A ball in from Paudie Reidy caused problems for Laois goalkeeper Eoin Reilly and when Paul Divilly rose he go the touch to send the ball to the net and leave just two points separating the sides (0-6 to 1-1).
The visitors responded with point from Willie Hyland after a poor clearance from Fiachra O’Muineachain and a converted 65 from centre back Matthew Whelan, which left them with a double score lead (0-8 to 1-1) with 21 minutes played.
During the remaining minutes Divilly sent over two frees and a ‘65’ and indeed was Kildare’s only first half scorer. In the 35th minute things got even worse for the home side when Laois dual star Cahir Healy picked out Brian Dunne, unmarked, and he even had time compose himself before he fired the ball passed young Paddy McKenna in the Kildare goal and it was followed up by a Willie Hyland point to leave the O’Moore men leading 1-10 to 1-4 at the interlude.
After the turnaround the Lilies added to their tally through Celbridge’s Mark Moloney but it was cancelled out by a free from Laois’ top marksman Stephen Maher.
Paul Divilly and Gerry Keegan both split the posts to reduce the deficit to four (1-11 to 1-7) but thereafter three on the trot from the visitors saw them open up a 1-14 to 1-7 advantage by the 55th minute.
Kildare, to their credit, didn’t give up and scored from Richie Hoban (free and a 65) and young Gerry Keegan reduced the deficit but even still this encounter had an air of inevitability about it.
Before the visitors were reduced to 14 men Stephen Maher tagged on a brace of points and thereafter Tommy Fitzgerald and Maher again raised white flags to ensure a comfortable nine point win for Laois.
Up next for the Lilies is a second round meeting with Wicklow on March 10, a game that will take place in Croke Park ahead of the Kildare senior footballers’ meeting with Dublin in the Allianz Football League.
Scorers: Laois - Stephen Maher 0-9 (7f), Willie Hyland 0-4, Brian Dunne 1-0, Matthew Whelan 0-2 (2 ’65’), Cahir Healy 0-1, James Walsh 0-1, Zane Keenan 0-1, Tommy Fitzgerald 0-1.
Kildare - Paul Divilly 1-5 (4f, 1 ’65’), Gerry Keegan 0-2, Richie Hoban 0-2 (1f, 1 ’65’), Mark Moloney 0-1.
Eoin Reilly; John A Delaney, Darren Maher, Brian Campion; Joe Fitzpatrick, Matthew Whelan, Cahir Healy; James Walsh, Shane Dollard; Brian Dunne, Zane Keenan, Willie Hyland;John Brophy, Tommy Fitzgerald, Stephen Maher. Subs: Willie Dunphy replaced S Dollard 46 mins, Ben Conroy replaced Z Keenan 67 mins.
Paddy McKenna; Paul Keegan, Fiachra O’Muineachain, Pa Curtin; Kieran Divilly, Richie Hoban, Paudie Reidy; Danny Butler, Niall O’Muineachain; Mark Moloney, Paul Divilly, Ross Kelly; Tony Murphy, David Kennedy, Gerry Keegan. Subs: Eanna O’Neill replaced N O’Muineachain HT, Peadar Downey replaced D Kennedy HT, Bernard Deay replaced T Murphy 36 mins, Conor O’Hehir replaced P Divilly 58 mins.
Tony Carroll (Offaly).