Super comeback sees Kildare book Leinster Junior final spot

A YOUNG man, currently sitting the most important exams of his life, kicked Kildare in to the Leinster Junior Football Championship final for the second year in a row in St Conleth’s Park last Wednesday evening, writes Ruth Chambers.

A YOUNG man, currently sitting the most important exams of his life, kicked Kildare in to the Leinster Junior Football Championship final for the second year in a row in St Conleth’s Park last Wednesday evening, writes Ruth Chambers.

Leinster Junior Football Championship semi final

Kildare: 0-10

Meath: 0-9

Castledermot’s Emmet O’Keeffe, a half time replacement for Joey Kehoe, kicked over the winning point with ten minutes remaining. It was the first and only time Kildare led in this penultimate round encounter and truth be told many would have been forgiven for thinking the Lilies’ time was up after they trailed their Leinster rivals by some seven points at half time.

This was a real Jekyll and Hyde performance from Tony Kelly’s team; non existent during the opening 35 minutes, outstanding in the second period. Indeed Kildare simply didn’t show up in the first half. They were laden with errors, had no answers for Meath and could only muster up a single point over the course of the 30 plus minutes.

After the turnaround however the Lilies had fire in their belly six point without reply before Meath opened their second half account. A point from Johnstownbridge’s Cathal McNally leveled the game up for the first time in the 49th minute and soon after the aforementioned O’Keeffe split the posts with a point that turned out to be the winner.

As expected senior star Dermot Earley wasn’t available for the semi final clash and he was replaced in the team by Confey’s Joey Kehoe. This time out Cian Bolton, brother of Kildare senior defender Emmet Bolton, filled the full forward position, while Barry Lawlor and Conor Feeney started in the middle of the field. Once again Kilcullen’s Darren Barker came in for the injured Mossie McCann but in truth it was changes made at half time that really gave Kildare the kick up the backside they needed.

At the interlude Aidan Dunne and Emmett O’Keeffe were sprung from the substitutes bench and the changes gave the Lilies the impetus they needed to rescue their hopes of defending their title against Cavan in the final tomorrow (Wednesday) week in Newbridge.

In the quarter final Kildare tore Kilkenny apart and they always knew that their meeting with Meath was going to be a much, much tougher affair. From the off the Royals looked like they were going to record a landslide victory and indeed found themselves six points clear before Kildare managed to open their account. Full forward and free taker Andrew Tormey was causing all sorts of problems for Kildare, while down the other end the home side appeared bereft of ideas as the visitor packed men behind the ball.

With only a minute gone a foul on Danny Quinn by Colin O’Shea resulted in Meath’s first point Tormey, to the left of the posts, swung over a free from his hands and not long after the Royals doubled their advantage when the same Tormey again split the posts, this time from play.

Kildare had their chances, the best of the half falling to Cian Bolton in the ninth minute but he fired wide, while Cathal McNally’s effort poorly dropped short in to the ‘keeper’s hands.

By the 13th minute Pat Coyle’s Meath team were 0-5 to 0-0 to the good and they stretched that even further before Kildare got off the mark. A pass from Martin Doran found Danny Quinn and he cut inside before fisting over the bar to give Meath a 0-6 to 0-0 advantage with 16 minutes on the clock.

Kildare finally opened their account in the 21st minute thanks to a point from midfield man Barry Lawlor but that’s as good as it got for the Lilies in the first half.

By the time the interval whistle was sounded Meath had tagged on two further points and led 0-8 to 0-1 heading to the dressing room.

As the rain came down at half time not many gave Kildare any hope of rescuing this semi final but boss Tony Kelly thought otherwise. Some stern words and changes at the break did the trick and a totally different Lilies side emerged for the second period.

Just a minute in Kildare reduced the deficit to six when the impressive Seamus Hanafin knocked over a free after Emmet Hyland was impeded. Indeed the Ballyteague man was inspirational for Kildare in the second and it was him who reduced the deficit further a minute later with another converted free. Hanafin followed it up with his first from play and with only four minutes of the half played Kildare had the deficit down to four (0-8 to 0-4).

Hanafin, Lawlor and Aidan Dunne all raised white flags to leave Kildare trailing by just one by the 44th minute but Meath responded through Tormey (free) to keep the Lilies at bay but only temporarily.

A superb point from Emmet O’Keeffe reduced the margin to one once again and the leveler wasn’t long in coming. Cathal McNally, out right, pulled the trigger and delivered the equaliser in the 49th minute and the unbelievable comeback was complete.

Kildare didn’t hang around either because second later they hit the front for the first time in this semi final tussle. Super sub O’Keeffe unleashed an effort that just sneaked over the bar and that was that despite the best efforts of the opposition.

There were some nervous moments late on for the Lilies as Meath threw everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at them but they stood firm, got a bit of luck thanks to the upright and booked their place in the final. The only downside being that they finished the game with 14 men when Barry Lawlor received two yellow cards in quick succession in time added on.

Kildare will now meet Cavan in the Leinster Junior Football Championship final in St Conleth’s Park on June 27 at 7.30pm.

Scorers: Kildare - Seamus Hanafin 0-4 (3f), Barry Lawlor 0-2, Emmet O’Keeffe 0-2, Aidan Dunne 0-1, Cathal McNally 0-1.

Meath - Andrew Tormey 0-7 (4f), Rory Maguire 0-1, Danny Quinn 0-1,.

Kildare: William Clynch; Jamie Lambe, William Burke, Darren Barker; Colin O’Shea, Eamonn Fitzpatrick, Colm Fagan; Barry Lawlor, Conor Freeney; Joey Kehoe, Seamus Hanafin, Daniel Flynn; Gareth Duffy, Cian Bolton, Cathal McNally. Subs: Aidan Dunne replaced C O’Shea HT, Emmet O’Keeffe replaced J Kehoe HT, Graham Waters replaced J Lambe 43 mins, Emmet Hyland replaced C Bolton 54 mins.

Meath: Shane Geraghty; Harry Newman, Shane Crosbie, Paudge Muldoon; Cormac Rowe, Paudge Young, Paudge Geoghegan; Phelim O’Reilly, Stephen Crosbie; Martin Doran, Rory Maguire, Stephen Donoghue; Danny Quinn, Andrew Tormey, Sean Mallon. Subs: Gary Coyne replaced P Geoghegan 40 mins, Brian McMahon replaced S Mallon 45 mins, Stephen Clynch replaced S Crosbie 48 mins, Darragh McNamera replaced S Donoghue 52 mins.

Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).