Monday 27 February 2017

Kingdom survive major scare to progress to semi-finals

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Kerry players James Logue, left, and Shane Nolan celebrate with the cup after victory over Westmeath. Allianz Hurling League Division 2A Final, Westmeath v Kerry
Kerry players James Logue, left, and Shane Nolan celebrate with the cup after victory over Westmeath. Allianz Hurling League Division 2A Final, Westmeath v Kerry

Kerry, beaten finalists for the last two years, moved into the semi-finals of this year's Christy Ring Cup at Austin Stack Park in Tralee yesterday, but not before getting a major scare.

It came from a very committed and skilful Meath side, who had Kerry on the ropes for three-quarters of the game, but the Kingdom's experience and patience saw them over the line, 1-23 to 2-18.

Meath were quick off the blocks and with Jack Regan unerring from frees and converting a 20th minute penalty which appeared highly debatable.

Kerry were relying on Shane Nolan from frees, after Colm Harty gave them a first minute lead, with a cracking goal.

However Meath were employing a sweeper and with Michael Burke, James Toher, and Damien Healy to the fore, Kerry just could not crack the system, as Meath led 1-13 to 1-9 at the interval.

Kerry played much better in the second half, with the introduction of Sean Weir on the 40, and it was Kerry's bench that proved crucial in this comeback.

Still three points adrift, Kerry rallied with Shane Nolan (2) and sub Rory Horgan levelling the contest as Meath visibility wilted, with Nolan giving Kerry the lead in the 55th minute and they never looked like losing it.

Padraig Boyle added a long range free, while Daniel Collins, and former Tipp minor underage star, John O'Neill pushed Kerry five clear, and Willie McGrath's late goal, was a mere consolation.

In Newbridge, a hat-trick of goals from Martin Duggan saw London inflict a 3-16 to 0-19 replay defeat on the champions Kildare.

Duggan was an outstanding contributor to their deserved victory and the Kilburn Gaels attacker netted twice towards the end of the first half to give London a 2-8 to 0-9 interval lead.

Kildare were heavily reliant on the free-taking of Mark Delaney for scores and the Coill Dubh sharpshooter kept them in touch as he racked up an impressive personal tally of ten points.

The hosts were eight points in arrears when they lost Paul Divilly to a straight red card in the 52nd minute but responded with their best period in the game.

Six consecutive points got them to within a score of London but the brilliant Duggan put the issue well beyond doubt with his third goal of the game.

Down, meanwhile enjoyed a comfortable nine-point victory over Wicklow in Ballycran yesterday to stay in the Christy Ring Cup.

Wicklow, whose team bus was delayed getting to the Down venue, are now out of the competition following back-to-back defeats to Meath and Down in the past two weekends.

Down had a strong breeze in the first half and coasted to a 0-14 to 0-5 lead at half time, Gareth 'Magic' Johnston with four points from frees.

Wicklow won the second half, with Andy O'Brien converting three frees and dual star Leighton Glynn scored a couple of points in this Division 2B tussle.

Down goalkeeper Stephen Keith pulled off a great save from Wicklow forward Enan Glynn but it was Down who hit the only goal of the game late on.

Donal Hughes' strong run set up Chris Egan whose low, hard finish to the corner of the net completed the rout for Down, who play a loser from the Division 2A games in the next round.

In the Nicky Rackard Cup, a first half haul of 0-16 steered Roscommon to victory and into the last four at Monaghan's expense at Athleague.

With Gerry Fallon, Johnny Moran and Cillian Egan in top form, Justin Campbell's charges laid a solid foundation for victory as the visitors struggled to cope with the home side's intensity.

The game was put to bed early in the second half when Egan found the net in the 37th minute. Monaghan rallied with points from Ronan Meegan and Stephen Lambe to close the gap but a hat-trick of scores from substitute John Coyne booked the Rossies' place in the semi-finals.

Donegal cruised to an emphatic 4-21 to 1-9 victory over hapless Longford at Glennon Bros Pearse Park. Sean McVeigh and Ronan McDermott provided the firepower in attack.

At no stage did the home side threaten to spoil Donegal's party and had to rely solely on the free taking accuracy of Eoin Donnellan whose 0-6 contribution took the bad look of things from a Longford perspective.

After the game, Donegal manager Ray Durack praised the efforts of his players. "I knew in the dressing room before the match that the boys were really ready for it." he said. "I am happy with the display and it was good to see the likes of Paul Sheridan and Marty McGrath back in action."

Armagh advanced to the semi-finals with a comprehensive 3-17 to 0-20 win over holders Tyrone at Carrickmore, with skipper Damien Casey their main marksman, but Cathal Carvill smacked home two goals, with substitute Eoin McGuinness also hitting the net in the second half.

JM Sheridan fired Fingal back into Nicky Rackard Cup contention with a fine second-half exhibition of free-taking in Dundalk as they beat Louth 1-21 to 2-8.

The north Dublin outfit took full advantage of Darren O'Hanrahan's dismissal just 30 seconds after the break to consign the hosts to a relegation play-off against Longford.

Fingal had trailed at the interval, 2-5 to 1-7, but hit the front for the first time in the contest within minutes of O'Hanrahan's departure.

It was plain-sailing for Mick Kennedy's troops after that as Sheridan ruthlessly punished every Louth transgression.

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