Kildare withstand Wexford fightback to give Cian O'Neill a winning start in Leinster
Kildare 0-9 Wexford 0-8
KILDARE are in the semi-finals of the Leinster SFC after a one-point, 0-9 to 0-8, win over Wexford in Croke Park tonight though it was definitely not an evening that sparked renewed optimism for this year’s competition.
Kildare won but can’t be happy with how they played or just how hard they made life for themselves.
Wexford lost playing ultra safe – not an outcome from which to glean much satisfaction.
Largely, it was as the scoreline suggests; safety trumping ambition, security backed heavily over invention.
On a dark, wet evening in Croke Park, we had a little drama though.
Late on, with an injury-time free to send the match into extra-time, Ciarán Lyng – who hadn’t kicked one all evening – sent his kick right of the near post at the Canal End.
Kildare lived to fight another day.
If there is a new Kildare in the Cian O’Neill era, we’ll have to wait another round, at least, to see it.
They were functional tonight in the first half. Shaky and nervous in the second, even if their initial mission was ultimately accomplished.
There is a very clear demarcation in the Leinster SFC draw.
There’s the side on which Dublin lie - and then there’s the easy side.
Offaly play Westmeath in the other quarter-final on this less hectic side of the provincial bracket.
And Kildare were – on the admittedly flimsy gauge of League ranking – the highest ranked team on that softer side and thus, a decent bet to make this year’s Leinster final
Wexford finished third in Division 4 this year but looked at least a couple of levels shy of Kildare’s standards in the first half.
In keeping the national obsession, they got big numbers behind the ball.
Regularly, they kept just one man in attack and it served to check Kildare’s momentum and force a rethink of the best route forward but when Wexford did manage to turn it over, they failed to break with any brimming purpose or detectable intention.
Playing safe though uninspired football, Kildare led by 0-7 to 0-3 at the break.
Neil Flynn, long touted as the next great white attacking hope, started brightly.
He kicked a couple from play and a free and along with Alan Smith, toiled admirably as a two-man inside-forward act.
It was a lead they deserved and one, on the pedestrian example of the first half, Wexford looked unequipped to make up.
But make it up, they did.
Wexford came out and kicked the first four points of the second-half, two of them Kevin O’Grady frees, to level the match by its 49th minute and the paltry crowd in Croke Park suddenly detected an upset.
Kildare, by marked contrast, went the first 20 minutes of the second half without scoring or, for that matter, creating too many viable opportunities.
That sorry little run ended in the 55th minute with Eamonn Callaghan’s first touch after coming as a substitute, followed up two minutes later by debutant and fellow replacement, Cian O’Donoghue, to breath new life into a slowly suffocating Kildare performance.
Shanley got one back from another free – his fourth, though Lyng, a left-footed kicker, opted to take Wexford’s late free from the right and missed.
Kildare ran down the clock and survived.
SCORERS – Kildare: N Flynn 0-3 (1f), A Smith 0-2, O Lyons, M O’Flaherty, C O’Donoghue, E Callagahn 0-1 each. Wexford: D Shanley 0-4 (4f), C Kehoe, K O’Grady, J Tubritt, S Roche 0-1 each.
KILDARE: M Donnellan; P Kelly, D Hyland, O Lyons; E Doyle, F Conway, R Houlihan; K Keely, T Moolick; M O’Flaherty, E O’Flaherty, E Bolton; P Cribbin, A Smith, N Flynn. Subs: A Tyrrell for Cribbin (47), C O’Donoghue for Bolton (50), E Callaghan for Smith (54), P O’Neill for E O’Flaherty (59), F Dowling for Feely (61), K Murnaghan for M O’Flaherty (72)
WEXFORD: A Masterson; S Donohoe, J Wadding, J Rossiter; E Nolan, M Furlong, B Malone; C Kehoe, D Waters; K O’Grady, PJ Banville, B Brosnan; D Shanley, C Lyng, J Tubritt. Subs: K Butler for Furlong (31), S Roche for Tubritt (h-t), A Flynn for Banville (47), R Tierney for Kehoe (57), S Byrne for Malone (64)