Thursday 29 September 2016

Kildare bounce back from Dublin hammering with nervy win

KILDARE 1-15 OFFALY 1-13

Published 04/07/2015 | 16:23

4 July 2015; Alan Smith, Kildare, celebrates after the final whistle. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Round 2A, Offaly v Kildare. O'Connor Park, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Picture credit: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE
4 July 2015; Alan Smith, Kildare, celebrates after the final whistle. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Round 2A, Offaly v Kildare. O'Connor Park, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Picture credit: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE

A FRAUGHT afternoon in the midlands eventually yielded some 'qualified' relief for Kildare, who shook off the horror show of last weekend's 19-point rout by Dublin to overcome Offaly by just two points in Tullamore today.

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The visitors deserved their latest winning start on the back door circuit - just about.  They recovered from a nervy first quarter when they trailed by three points; and then a hesitant third quarter when they leaked five of the first seven points, compounded by a scatter of wasteful wides from their own forwards.

That cut Offaly's deficit to just one point, while Nigel Dunne spurned a presentable chance to equalise.  But, as in the first half, Kildare regrouped and some experienced stalwarts propelled them over the finishing line.

Emmet Bolton became an auxiliary attacker in the home straight, and his second point restored a two-point lead before top-scorer Eoghan O'Flaherty showed his poacher's instinct to fist home the all-important Kildare goal on 61 minutes.  It came via a rebound after Eamonn Callaghan's initial daisy-cutter had crashed off the butt of an upright.

Still five up as the clock ticked down, Kildare then offered Offaly a glimmer when Kevin Murnaghan spilled a delivery from the left wing and Peter Cunningham pounced for a 69th minute goal, drilled low past Mark Donnellan.  Yet they couldn't engineer another goal chance in the almost three minutes of stoppage time played.   Summer over for the Faithful; into the round 3A drum for Jason Ryan's relieved troops.

Earlier, Kildare's brittle belief was all too apparent during a fraught first quarter.  They leaked two early points to Willie Mulhall, one a free, and required a brilliant fingertip intervention by Ciaran Fitzpatrick to cut out Niall McNamee's sublime crossfield pass, with Dunne lurking at the far post for a goal chance that never came.

Kildare Manager Jason Ryan leads his players, from left, Ciaran Fitzpatrick, Mick O'Grady and Eoin Doyle off the pitch after the game
Kildare Manager Jason Ryan leads his players, from left, Ciaran Fitzpatrick, Mick O'Grady and Eoin Doyle off the pitch after the game

Albeit more sporadically, the Lilies were creating openings of their own and Alan Smith blazed a possible goal chance over, cutting the deficit to a point, 0-3 to 0-2.

But then Offaly upped the ante again, McNamee hitting a towering point to capitalise on Niall Smith's soaring catch and Joey O'Connor's driving run.  When McNamee took a quick free to the unmarked Anton Sullivan, a 16th minute goal surely beckoned for the Faithful … instead he fired over but they still led by 0-5 to 0-2.

Gradually, and often through the promptings of O'Flaherty, the visitors crept back into contention.  

A possible turning point came in the 29th minute, when Mulhall's radar suddenly deserted him at one end, undercooking a 30-metre free, and Kildare quickly countered for Niall Kelly to point at the other end.

That kickstarted a run of six unanswered points before the break.  It could have been even worse for Offaly, Niall Darby backtracking to hack Smith's effort off the line.  The sides were level on the stroke of 35 minutes, only for Smith, O'Flaherty (with a 50-metre monster) and O'Flaherty again (from a free) to secure a flattering 0-10 to 0-6 half-time cushion.

SCORERS - Kildare: E O'Flaherty 1-7 (4f), A Smith 0-3, E Bolton 0-2, N Kelly, C McNally, E Callaghan 0-1 each.  Offaly: W Mulhall 0-4 (3f), P Cunningham 1-1, N Darby (2f), A Sullivan 0-2 each, C McNamee, N McNamee, N Dunne, B Allen 0-1 each.  

KILDARE: M Donnellan; M O'Grady, C Fitzpatrick, O Lyons; E Bolton, E Doyle, K Murnaghan; P Cribbin, G White; P O'Neill, E O'Flaherty, C McNally; E Callaghan, A Smith, N Kelly.  Subs: T Moolick for White (black card 25), F Dowling for McNally (49), M Conway for Kelly (60), H Lynch for Dowling (69); * Conway black card 72 (not replaced).

OFFALY: A Mulhall; B Darby, P McConway, E Rigney; N Darby, J Moloney, J O'Connor; C McNamee, N Smith; P Cunningham, G Guilfoyle, A Sullivan; N McNamee, N Dunne, W Mulhall.  Subs: E Carroll for Smith (inj ht), B Allen for Dunne (54), J Evans for N McNamee (57), J Ledwith for Mulhall (67), N Bracken for C McNamee (73). 

REF: C Lane (Cork).

ATT: 5,202

Ciaran Fitzpatrick, Kildare, supported by team-mate Niall Kelly, left, takes on the Offaly defence
Ciaran Fitzpatrick, Kildare, supported by team-mate Niall Kelly, left, takes on the Offaly defence

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