Silverware at last as U20 footballers bring home the Cup

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It began in St Conleth's Park, Newbridge, on a Monday evening, May 28, against Laois and ironically The Lilies had to dig deep to come from behind to get the win in the first game of the EirGrid U20 Leinster Football Championship.

Manager Davy Burke admitted that evening that he wasn't unduly worried when his side trailed in the second half, “we are still finding our way; finding our best side and while I was fully aware of the strength we had on our bench, nevertheless I was relieved when the final whistle arrived.”

A week Kildare travelled to Pairc Tailteann in Navan to take on Meath, a game they lost by a point, but in their final game in the group stages they got back on track when handing out a bit of hammering to Wicklow on a final score line of 3-15 to 0-4.

And so it was on to the knock-out stages where Carlow was the opposition in the quarter final, Kildare winning 4-18 to 0-8; while in the semi final Offaly was the opposition, The Lilies coming out on top on a final score line of Kildare 3-14 Offaly 2-5.

At this stage Kildare were certainly building up a reputation as a free flowing, hard-working side that had the ability to score plenty of goals and no shortage of points.

And so it was on to the Leinster final and a meeting with Dublin in O'Connor Park, Tullamore.

It was a game with lots of excellent football before Kildare lifted the title, pulling away in the second half to win 1-15 to 0-10.

Anyone looking at this side could seen them growing in confidence from Aaron O'Neill in goals to a full forward line of Jimmy Hyland, Brian McLoughlin and Paddy Woodgate.

It was a full forward line of exceptional talent with Jimmy Hyland leading the way, in the Leinster final alone he scored ten points in a man of the match display.

And he, and the team, were only getting into their stride.

The All Ireland semi final looked a real stumbling block with Jack O'Connor's Kerry providing the opposition.

Another cracking encounter with Kildare looking all but home and hosed before a late Kerry rally saw them get to within a point of Kildare but in a hectic ending it was The Lilies who held out for a one point victory (1-1 to 1-13) with that man Hyland picking up his second man of the match award.

In the second semi final Mayo got the better of a fancied Derry side by 2-14 to 1-11 and so it was off to Croker for the first ever U20 final.

Kildare were without wing back Ruadhan Ó Giolláin, the Maynooth man had to have his appendix removed a few days before the final and Jack Barrett was drafted in and the Ardclough man did not disappoint.

Kildare led at the break 1-13 to 1-8 but as expected Mayo worked their way right back in it on the resumption but at the end of the day it was The Lilies who prevailed on a final score line of Kildare 1-18 Mayo 1-16.

Jimmy Hyland picked up his third man of the match award, in the final he clocked up another ten points while he was also awarded the EirGrid Player of the U20 Championship Award.

Six Kildare players made the EirGrid 20 team of 2018 including Aaron O'Neill, Mark Barrett, Mark Dempsey, Aaron Masterson, Jimmy Hyland and Brian McLoughlin.