Sport Gaelic Football

Saturday 20 September 2014

Johnston feels right at home as Lilywhites hold off battling Offaly

KILDARE 1-12 OFFALY 1-9 'Byrne Cup semi-final (SF)

Published 21/01/2013 | 05:00

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SEANIE Johnston has broken his silence on his controversial transfer from Cavan to Kildare, which became the subject of national debate for so much of last year.

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Johnston, who played a key role as Kildare defeated Offaly in Tullamore to clinch a final date against Dublin next Saturday, is happy to leave 2012 to the history books.

He was in the eye of a storm of controversy for months before he finally got the transfer clearance, but now he is looking forward to 2013 and a fresh start.

Speaking of the furore that surrounded him, Johnston said: "It was probably hard in the fact that I wasn't talking about it, and everyone else seemed to be talking about it.

"A lot of that stuff is out of your control. It's difficult to influence what other people do. People have their opinions and I can't control that.

"You just have to keep working hard and knuckle down and, with a bit of luck, good things will come. All you can do is try your best and hopefully you will get out of it what you have put in."

Certainly, Johnston put in a good hard shift for Kildare as they overcame the setback of playing with 14 men to defeat a strong and committed Offaly side.

Mikey Conway's dismissal 20 minutes from full-time, at a stage when Kildare were clinging to a 1-7 to 1-5 lead, could have been a game-changer, but Kieran McGeeney's men dug deep to carve out a win.

None did so better than Johnston, who floated like a butterfly at times over the heavy, but eminently playable O'Moore Park surface and stung the home side like a bee as he contributed seven points to the cause.

In that final 20 minutes Kildare caught a big break when Offaly talisman Niall McNamee missed a late penalty that would have levelled the match at 1-12 apiece.

During that last quarter, Johnston scored two important points and made another for Padraig O'Neill – good going for a guy whose training was disrupted for about four weeks due to a calf injury.

The Cavan native enjoyed playing up front alongside big target man Tomas O'Connor and feels very comfortable within the squad

"It was good to get the 70 minutes in. It's a long time since I played 70 minutes, so that was good," he said.

"It's not really hard to integrate with those lads. They are not just good footballers, they are good people, very welcoming, very friendly.

Integrate

"It's not that hard to integrate when they make you feel very welcome and for that I have to thank them. It's only early.

"Last year was a bit of a washout. It was difficult not being able to play until late in the year. Hopefully, I'll get a good run at it this year and we'll see how things will go."

McGeeney was pleased with the showing of all his troops, but in answer to the inevitable questions about Johnston he replied: "I thought he did very well. He won a lot of possession and was very brave going for the ball. He was getting a lot of attention in there, so we're happy enough."

And what of Offaly?

Well, their resurgence hit a bump in the road, but there is a lively spirit there and they refused to lie down when the game seemed to be slipping away from them.

An Eoin Carroll goal after just three minutes was the first score of the game and a real tonic to the home side. A Mikey Conway penalty after 29 minutes proved an equivalent boost for Kildare and the sides went into the half-time level at 1-4 each.

The contest was lively and hard-fought all the way through.

Offaly had strong performances from Brian Darby, Derek Kelly, Brian Connor, Carroll, Niall McNamee and Anton Sullivan, but they weren't let down by any of the other team members.

Emmet Bolton, Conway, Eoghan O'Flaherty, O'Neill, Johnston, and Daniel Flynn were to the fore in the very competitive Kildare side, and it was an entertaining contest.

McNamee once again contributed much class and skill plus five points to the home side, but will rue missing the penalty. There were three minutes left when he dragged it wide and left of the posts from the spot. A goal would have levelled the game and given the home side a final blast of momentum, but there was no condemnation from Offaly boss Emmet McDonnell.

"Niall's our marquee player, we trust him, we have huge faith in him," he said.

"He's the captain of the team and he's the leader of the team. He has been the guy in training driving the whole show, so the one thing we said at the end is that Niall won us the previous few games scoring six, eight, 10 points. We are a team, we back him, we stick together."

Scorers – Kildare: S Johnston 0-7 (4f), M Conway 1-0 (pen), E O'Flaherty 0-2, C McNally, E Bolton, P O'Neill 0-1 each. Offaly: N McNamee 0-5 (4f), E Carroll 1-0, R Brady (f), A Sullivan, D Kelly, P Cunningham 0-1 each.

Kildare – S Connolly; H McGrillen, M Foley, O Lyons; E O'Flaherty, M Conway, E Bolton; G White, P O'Neill; M O'Flaherty, C McNally, B Flanagan; S Johnston, T O'Connor, D Flynn.

Subs: J Byrne for C McNally (51), R Kelly for E O'Flaherty (60), P Brophy for T O'Connor (65), R Sweeney for E Bolton (70)

Offaly – A Mulhall; S Pender, S Sullivan, P McConway; D Hanlon, B Darby, D Kelly; A McNamee, R Brady; G Guilfoyle, B Connor, E Carroll; M Mitchell, N McNamee, A Sullivan.

Subs: P Cunningham for M Mitchell (40), E Rigney for P McConway (41), P McPadden for E Carroll (64), M Young for A McNamee (66).

Ref – J Curley (Meath)

Irish Independent

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