Contentious point turned tide for Lilies – James McCartan
kildare 1-18 down 0-11 - ALL-IRELAND SFC QUALIFIER
Time stood still in the Marshes yesterday as the match clock struck the hour mark and everybody else stopped with it.
When it began ticking once more, Down remained motionless while Kildare accelerated, with little difficulty, it seemed, into another week of championship fare.
For the home side and their manager James McCartan, who defeated the Lilywhites en route to the 2010 All-Ireland final, time was not only called on their September march but, one presumes, the tenure of the boss, too.
Cometh the hour, cometh the contentious point. When Padraig Fogarty skied an effort into the Omeath Road end, even those patrons in white were waving it wide.
Not so, chimed the officials; with Kildare wheezing after coughing up an easily garnered five-point half-time lead that had been cut to the minimum, it was the release valve they needed.
They scored 1-5 without reply from there to the finish; Down stopped playing. It was as if their music had stopped; Kildare finished with a symphonic flourish, capped by Tommy Moolick's audacious 40-yard screamer to the net.
"We're disappointed that when the game was in the mix, there was a call about a point," McCartan said.
"I suppose when you lose by the margin we did, it's hard to look back and blame one particular incident, but the game was in the melting point and it was disappointing.
"They have difficult decisions to make but the linesman had a perfect view of it. I don't know why he called the referee over to tell him he was right. If you're going to call someone over, it's to change something."
McCartan had engaged in fierce conversation with the linesman, Padraig Hughes, but to no avail; that many of his messages to his team seemed to be equally fruitless was just as concerning.
"We didn't get into it early on, the performance was very poor and we were disappointed with that at half-time. If we had repeated that in the second half, we would have been limping out of the championship without a fight. We asked them to go out with at least a fight. We played tremendous stuff for 15 minutes but that won't win you championship games."
For their part, Kildare are revived after the trauma endured at the hands of Meath.
"Just to get a win was great because the last day was really hard," said Jason Ryan, who was glad that his side's late surge pricked the bubble of another dubious call from officialdom.
"If we had won by a point it would have been rather controversial, but that adds somewhat to the game. I'm not a massive advocate of Hawk-Eye.
"I think it costs a huge amount of money to be spending on something, and then we're always talking about the referees. I think if that money was spent on the referees rather than the Hawk-Eye it would help our game more nationally rather than just spending it in one stadium. And sure you can't have it everywhere, that's not going to be feasible."
Initially, while Kildare's renewed interest in the art of defending was predictable enough given their Leinster submission against a rampant Meath, Down's devotion was quite puzzling, even allowing for a stiffish first-half breeze blowing into their faces.
To describe their enthusiasm for a defensive alignment as rigorous would be charitable; it more resembled rigor mortis as white jerseys flapped furiously among the static, red rearguard.
It took them until first-half injury-time to render their first point from play; by this stage Kildare, without unleashing anything like the fury or thunder one might have expected in foreign territory, were five points up, tossing in some fiendishly cynical diversions to defy Down's rare forays.
Down were wiped in the middle third and, with loose men all over the field – on both sides – contributing little to the game save the interest of tactical pedants, the away team were barely being pushed to the pins of their lightly felt collars.
They stemmed the flow at midfield and enjoyed a raucous opening to the second half, after six minutes of which they had already surpassed their entire meagre opening segment haul. It could have been more as Benny Coulter, switched to full-forward from where he despatched Hugh McGrillen to the bench, almost scored a scintillating goal after a divine dummy; his shot blazed agonisingly wide but he would total four points from play.
Then came the turning point in the guise of Fogarty's contentious point. A psychological blow no doubt but it was unforgivable that the collective allowed themselves to wallow in this perceived injustice.
As they had done in their insipid opening-act offering, Down made Kildare look like world-beaters, which they are not.
No matter, some of the scores they stitched together, notwithstanding the presence of opposition defenders impersonating traffic wardens, will have injected Ryan's side with much-needed confidence after their semi-final shellacking in Leinster.
Scorers – Kildare: P Fogarty 0-5 (1f, 1 '45'), A Smith, P O'Neill 0-3 each, T Moolick 1-0, C McNally, N Kelly 0-2 each, E Bolton, E Callaghan, G White 0-1 each. Down: B Coulter 0-4, D O'Hare 0-3 (3fs), D O'Hagan, K McKernan, C Maginn, C Laverty 0-1 each.
Kildare – M Donnellan 6; C Fitzpatrick 6, H McGrillen 5, O Lyons 7; E Bolton 7, F Conway 7, K Cribbin 7; T Moolick 7, G White 7; C McNally 6, N Kelly 7, P O'Neill 8; E Callaghan 7, P Fogarty 7, E O'Flaherty 7. Subs: A Smith 7 for Callaghan (BC, 25), M O'Grady 6 for McGrillen (45), H Lynch 6 for White (BC, 51), T O'Connor 6 for O'Flaherty (53), E Doyle 6 for Bolton (58)
Down – M Cunningham 6; D McCartan 6, D Rooney 5, D O'Hagan 5; C McCartan 5, C Garvey 5, K McKernan 7; D Gordon 7, P Turley 5; B Coulter 7, C Maginn 6, M Poland 6; D O'Hare 5, N Madine 5, C Laverty 6. Subs: C Toner 5 for Turley (34), R Johnston 6 for Madine (h-t), B McArdle 5 for D McCartan (48), D Turley 5 for R Johnston (63)
Ref – D Coldrick (Meath)