Sport Gaelic Football

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Lilies prevail as Royal ref rage ends in belly tickling

Kildare 1-14
Meath 1-12
Allianz Football League Div 2

It ended in Newbridge with what Kieran McGeeney would later describe as "belly tickling", a new one for the GAA lexicon and not a term likely to be found in any official guide.

So infuriated was Seamus McEnaney with some of the late calls made by referee Marty Duffy as the action heated up, that he marched up to his opposite number and squared up to him to vent wildly different opinions to those of the referee as to what had happened.

The managers' bellies did collide and words were exchanged, but that was as far as it got before they were escorted away in different directions.

Just to show there was no lingering animosity, McGeeney and Meath selector Paul Grimley, long-time friends, embraced seconds after.

"The two of us disagreed over a couple of decisions that the referee made but sure that's life, spur of the moment, we'll move on from things like that," was McEnaney's reflection afterwards.

"I've enough things to worry about in our dressing-room without worrying about the decisions Marty Duffy makes, right or wrong."

McGeeney admitted to being disappointed about his part in the exchange, however minor.

"I'd be annoyed with myself," he said. "You have to have a bit discipline on the sideline as well as on the pitch. I don't know, it was more tickling bellies than anything else."

Passion

It had reached that point because the match had a serious streak of passion running right through it, especially when Meath were gifted a goal to drag themselves back into it on 57 minutes (1-10 to 1-9 behind), Joe Sheridan grabbing Hugh McGrillen's loose pass before offloading to Shane O'Rourke for a simple goal.

From there to the finish it was frantic stuff.

Meath kept closing to within a point but Kildare kept striking at the other end on the break with measured points from James Kavanagh, Gary White and Ronan Sweeney.

If Duffy made mistakes then it was against that backdrop. Everyone made them. It was a game worth winning for both teams for so many reasons.

The teams are likely opponents in a Leinster quarter-final later this year (Kildare must play Wicklow first).

In the end Kildare just showed more composure and more savvy to win the game. They are a team on the road with this manager for four seasons now and it's showing.

They defended smartly throughout. Michael Foley got to grips with Sheridan early; McGrillen also got on top of Brian Farrell. Collectively, they were able to wrap up the more cumbersome Meath attackers.

But a source of concern has to be the manner in which they spent so long in Meath's slipstream off kick-outs, a 27-16 deficit underlining how much possession Meath had from restarts and how influential Brian Meade was in the exchanges, rookie centre-back Brian Menton backing him up in support.

A source of even greater concern for Meath, though, is how they failed to make that possession count.

The perception is that McEnaney has inherited a team with forwards who are able to score, but too many of them bring the same tricks to the table and the return of the likes of Graham Reilly and Stephen Bray can't come quickly enough.

For McEnaney, the pressure intensifies, but not to the degree it might have because this was a determined performance, sometimes laced with an over-eagerness to do the right thing.

"I'd say today is the start of the Meath season," declared McEnaney after a fourth defeat from five in the campaign and a seventh successive defeat on the road over three league campaigns,

"It's Meath's first performance of the year. We'd be very, very happy with the performance.

"We put a serious bit of fight into it. We conceded a goal and it probably was the difference in the end."

Kildare dusted themselves down after a shaky start and always had the more fluent movement throughout.

In Rob Kelly they had the game's outstanding player; what a bonus he will be if his graph continues to rise after a season of injuries.

He is a graceful striker of the ball -- his four points here had class and composure written all over them -- but he was also involved in many other productive plays.

It was his lay-off for Emmett Bolton that created his side's goal on 21 minutes; John Doyle applied the finish from close range. Kildare led by 1-5 to 0-5 at the break and always had Meath at arm's length after that.

Trenches

Twice they threatened to get away, when Padraig O'Neill and Kelly established four-point leads in the middle of the second half, but a Meath goal dragged the game back down into the trenches.

Kildare were equally well equipped in this regard, with contributions from Sweeney and substitutes Fionn Dowling and Morgan O'Flaherty very important.

"I thought it was a case of history repeating itself," said McGeeney. "We did the same in Navan last year when we were on top, and you can't replicate those things in training until they happen in a match.

"I wouldn't have chosen to do it that way but it was good to see the fellas react in the right way."

Man of the Match: Rob Kelly (Kildare)

Scorers -- Kildare: J Doyle 1-3 (3f), R Kelly 0-4, R Sweeney, E O'Flaherty (2f) 0-2 each, G White, J Kavanagh, P O'Neill 0-1 each. Meath: S O'Rourke 1-1 (1f), C Ward 0-4 (4f), B Farrell, J Sheridan (1 '45') 0-2 each, P Gilsenan, S Kenny, P O'Rourke 0-1 each.

Kildare -- S Connolly 7; A MacLochlainn 6, M Foley 8, H McGrillen 7; E Bolton 6, B Flanagan 6, G White 7; T Moolick 5, P O'Neill 7; K Cribbin 5, E O'Flaherty 6; R Sweeney 7; J Doyle 7, D Flynn 5, R Kelly 9. Subs: J Kavanagh 6 for Moolick (44), D Whyte 6 for Flanagan (49), F Dowling 8 for Cribbin (55), M O'Flaherty 7 for Bolton (57).

Meath -- B Murphy 7; E Harrington 6, C King 6, S McAnarney 7; G O'Brien 6, B Menton 7, C McGuinness 6; B Meade 8, N Crawford 5; P Gilsenan 6, S O'Rourke 6, S Kenny 6; B Farrell 6, J Sheridan 6, B Sheridan 4. Subs: C Ward 6 for B Sheridan (h-t), A Moyles 5 for Kenny (47), M Ward 5 for Crawford (53), A Nestor 5 for Harrington (57), P O'Rourke for Gilsenan (67).

Ref -- M Duffy (Sligo).

Irish Independent

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