Cribbin rescues Kildare
O'Byrne Cup Final
THE gods mercilessly mocked Louth in last year's Leinster football final and had another chuckle at their expense in Newbridge yesterday.
This time, there was no controversy over the circumstances but they were no less dramatic as Kildare poached two stoppage-time goals to win a game that appeared out of their reach for long periods.
Louth completed their scoring as early as the 42nd minute but, with Kildare getting a poor return on their possession dominance throughout the second half, it looked as if the visitors' yield of 2-9 would be enough to land the pre-season prize.
Kildare, who trailed by seven points with 25 minutes remaining, pared four off the deficit and, as the game ticked into stoppage time, they launched one of their most cohesive attacks of the day which ended with Emmett Bolton being fouled in the Louth square.
Ronan Sweeney, an influential figure after coming on for the second half, stroked the penalty to the net to bring Kildare level for the first time since the seventh minute. Extra-time looked a certainty but Kildare won the kick-out and launched a drive for the winner, which resulted in Keith Cribbin kicking their third goal after the ball broke off an Eamonn Callaghan lob.
All had changed in the space of a minute, leaving Louth deep in frustration. Once again, they were caught on the line although, on this occasion, the rescue package had been launched legitimately.
"No complaints. Kildare hit us for two goals and we have to deal with that," said Louth manager, Peter Fitzpatrick. "It's disappointing because overall I thought we played very well. We had plenty of chances to kill off the game in the second half but didn't take them and with Kildare coming back at us all the time, there was always a danger we would get caught,"
Wasted opportunities were also high up the agenda on Kieran McGeeney's post-match reflections after watching his attack miscue in both halves. It was more pronounced in the second period, during which they enjoyed the majority of possession as Louth retreated into themselves. "We missed enough chances to win three games in the second half. Our decision-making up front was very poor, as was our kicking," he said.
Still, he will have been pleased by the defiant manner in which Kildare stuck with a challenge that reached its peak point in the 35th minute when Derek Maguire booted home his -- and Louth's -- second goal. He had struck in the 11th minute too, dancing through the Kildare defence before steering the ball to the net.
His second goal put Louth eight points clear (2-7 to 0-5) but Kildare's response was quick and effective as Padraig O'Neill kicked their first goal seconds before the half-time whistle.
Louth extended their lead by two points in the opening seven minutes of the second half but that was as good as it got. Despite the best efforts of Paddy Keenan, Kildare took over in the middle third of the field, leaving full-forwards Maguire and Shane Lennon -- who between them scored 2-8 -- as frustrated bystanders for long periods.
Emmett Bolton, David Whyte, Hugh Lynch, Callaghan, Ronan Sweeney and Alan Smith all contributed generously to the Kildare push but it still looked as if a complete recovery would prove beyond them until the late two-goal blast changed everything.
Kildare will be happy with the dogged manner in which they continued to chase what appeared to be a lost cause but must be concerned over their score-to-opportunity ratio.
Some of their kicking in the second half was quite deplorable; nor could they be satisfied with the high number of scoreable frees they conceded.
McGeeney said that they work hard on getting their tackling right and is clearly frustrated by how referees are interpreting the rules. "We bring referees in (to training) and they tell us what we're doing is correct but when we then we do it in matches, it's not correct. That one's beyond me. You hit a brick wall a lot of times on that one," he said.
Yesterday's game ended the January sparring and now both sides head into league action next weekend, seeking promotion from Divisions 2 (Kildare) and 3 (Louth) respectively.
"I said all along that getting out of Division 3 was the first target this year and it remains so. Hopefully, this (O'Byrne Cup) campaign will have got us right for that challenge," said Fitzpatrick.
As for Kildare winning an early-season trophy, McGeeney said it would only be of value if they used it to push on: "We're in Casement Park next weekend and that's where the real tests begin. They'll (Antrim) be out for revenge after losing to us last summer so we'll have to be ready for that one."
Scorers -- Kildare: P O'Neill, R Sweeney (pen), K Cribbin 1-0 each, A Smith, K Ennis (2f), E O'Flaherty (2f) 0-2 each, E Bolton, D Whyte (1 '45'), H McGrillen 0-1 each. Louth: D Maguire 2-1, S Lennon 0-7 (6f), P Keenan 0-1.
Kildare -- S Connolly; H McGrillen, M Foley, C Fitzpatrick; E Bolton, M Scanlon, D Whyte; H Lynch, P O'Neill; T Moolick, E Callaghan, E O'Flaherty; K Ennis, W Heffernan, A Smith. Subs: F Dowling for Heffernan (22), R Sweeney for Moolick (h-t), K Cribbin for Ennis (65), B Flanagan for Bolton (70).
Louth -- S O'Connor; E McAuley, A Hoey, G Hoey; R Finnegan, D Finnegan, S Fitzpatrick; P Keenan, R Carroll; D Crill, M Brennan, B Donnelly; D Maguire, S Lennon, A Reid. Subs: A McDonnell for Donnelly (29), R Greene for McAuley (56), P Smith for Reid (65), JP Rooney for Maguire (68)
Ref -- G McCormack (Dublin)