First blood to Gers in relegation showdown
Division 1/2 play-off: Geraldines 2-8 Kilkerley 0-9
Geraldines preserved their top-flight league status when staving off a spirited Kilkerley fightback to emerge five-point winners of the Division 1/2 Play-off in Darver on Friday evening.
These two teams are also scheduled to meet in the SFC Relegation decider and the Emmets should be fired up for that one as they attempt to end their season on a high, while Geraldines will be well satisfied if they can go into 2019 still in the top grade in both the league and championship.
Kilkerley drew first blood under the Darver lights when Tadhg McEneaney sent over a difficult free in the opening seconds and Sean Hand pointed from play, but each time Jim McEneaney restored parity with frees and it was two points apiece after 11 minutes.
In that first half Kilkerley kicked five wides, to Geraldines' four, while three scoring attempts dropped short at each end of the field, but the Haggardstown/Blackrock men eventually eked out a two-point lead by half-time.
Sean Thornton made it 3-2 with a magnificent towering effort and subsequently provided the pass for Patrick Hoey to point, and Hoey and Kevin Pepper then combined for Thornton to curl over via the upright.
Kilkerley's only reply was a powerful strike from Shane Lennon that skimmed just over the crossbar and the teams adjourned at the break with Geraldines 5-3 ahead.
Lennon will look back with regret at the opening two minutes of the second half, when he first screwed a straightforward free wide of the target, before slicing a goal attempt towards the corner flag after good approach play from Rian Hand.
Instead of leading by two, Kilkerley found themselves five points in arrears when Geraldines found the net from their opening second-half score. A poor kickout from Emmets' Cillian Quigley was directed straight into the hands of Glen Trainor and he advanced on goal before dinking a superb finish over the keeper.
When Jim McEneaney converted a 14-yard free on 37 minutes Gers looked to be on their way to a straightforward win, leading 1-6 to 0-3, but they failed to kick on as point efforts from Matthew Corcoran and Glen Trainor dropped short into Quigley's hands.
Tadhg McEneaney grabbed a desperately-needed score for Kilkerley in the 43rd minute, and Geraldines' response was to adopt a blanket defence, with 14 men camped in their own half at various times.
Now enjoying more possession, Kilkerley probed patiently and began to chip away at their opponents' advantage. McEneaney (from play) and Lennon (free) had the gap down to a goal and in between McEneaney had a goal attempt brilliantly blocked down by Tiernan Hand.
The tension amongst the Geraldines management and supporters was palpable when James Fegan fisted over the bar and Lennon made it a one-point game with Kilkerley's fifth consecutive score in the 54th minute.
In the nick of time, though, Glen Trainor gathered a high delivery from Jim McEneaney and swapped passes with Gareth Neacy before kicking a fine point - Gers' first in 18 minutes - to make it 1-7 to 0-8.
A superbly struck long-range effort from Jim McEneaney increased the gap back to three, but Kilkerley weren't finished yet and they almost crafted a goal through Ciaran Murtagh. Neacy was sent off for a foot-block arising out of that incident and Tadhg McEneaney pointed the resulting free.
In their desperate pursuit of what would have been a winning goal, Kilkerley were susceptible to the counter-attack, though, and so it proved heading into stoppage time as Trainor set up substitute Josh Arrowsmith who fired decisively past Quigley to seal victory for a relieved Geraldines.
Geraldines: Sean McEneaney; Ryan Trainor, James Craven, Daniel Flynn; Tiernan Hand, Jack Traynor, James Corrigan; Patrick Hoey 0-1, Matthew Corcoran; Gareth Neacy, Stephen Reidy, Sean Thornton 0-2; Kevin Pepper, Jim McEneaney 0-4 (3f), Glen Trainor 1-1. Subs: Josh Arrowsmith 1-0 for Reidy, Paul Clarke for Pepper, Ronan Green for Corrigan.
Kilkerley: Cillian Quigley; James Bellew, Fintan Clarke, Niall Mulholland; Rian Hand, Cormac Bellew, Shaun McElroy; James Fegan 0-1, Andrew McGuill; Conal McEneaney, Shane Lennon 0-3 (1f), Sean Hand 0-1, Ciaran Clarke; Tadgh McEneaney 0-4 (2f), Daniel McKeown. Subs: Ciaran McGlynn for C McEneaney, Ciaran Murtagh for Mulholland.
Referee: Aidan Shevlin