KILDARE stepped up preparations for their Leinster SFC opener against Louth with an encouraging challenge match victory over Mayo at Longwood last night.
The Lilywhites prevailed by 1-15 to 1-14, despite a late rally from the Connacht champions, and Kildare fans will be buoyed by reports that All Star Dermot Earley motored well on his introduction from the bench.
The game, which took place away from the prying eyes of media, was played over three periods of 25 minutes.
Earley was introduced ten minutes into the second period and finished out the rest of the game, having a major influence on proceedings.
The veteran midfielder is gradually coming back from the knee injury that first surfaced during the latter stages of the National League.
He also featured for around half an hour of Saturday’s SF challenge defeat to Cork, and has reported no adverse reaction since.
Given that Kildare face Louth in just ten days’ time - at Páirc Tailteann on Saturday week - it remains to be seen whether Earley would be thrown in from the start or held in reserve.
The starting midfield last night was Daryl Flynn and David Whyte. Kildare were close to full strength and, according to eye-witness reports from Longwood, they lorded possession for much of the game.
This was reflected in the fact they shot 15 wides compared to Mayo’s four.
Eamon Callaghan goaled in the opening minute, before points from Pádraig O’Neill, Alan Smith and Johnny Doyle helped them to a 1-5 to 0-4 lead after the first period, with four Conor Mortimer frees accounting for all of Mayo’s total.
Doyle and Ronan Sweeney saw a lot of ball as Kildare maintained their dominance in the second period, at the end of which they led by 1-12 to 0-8.
Kieran McGeeney & Co then made a number of changes, and Mayo finished strongly in the home straight, adding 1-6 to their tally.
Andy Moran grabbed their goal from a rebound, following an impressive save by Shane McCormack. Callaghan top-scored for the Lilies with 1-2 from play while Smith and James Kavanagh chipped in with 0-3 apiece.
Most of the Mayo scoring came from Moran (1-4, 3f ) and Mortimer (0-5, 4f ). On the basis that Mayo defeated Dublin by eight points last Friday night, Kildare fans will hope that yesterday’s results signals they are coming back into form at just the right time.
On the injury front, Ken Donnelly has emerged as a doubt for the Louth game because of a knee cartilage problem - he didn’t feature against Cork or Mayo. Rob Kelly and Mikey Conway are longer-term absentees following knee surgeries last week.
ROSCOMMON boss Fergal O’Donnell has named three championship debutants in the side that travels to Ruislip for their Connacht SFC opener against London next Sunday.
Corner-back Stephen Ormsby, centre- back Cathal Dineen and centreforward Paul Garvey will all make their senior summer baptisms.
Ger Heneghan is recalled in attack, having opted off the panel earlier in the season, while Karl Mannion returns at midfield after missing six NFL games through injury. However, Enda Kenny and Senan Kilbride are both ruled out.
ROSCOMMON (SFC v London): G Claffey; S McDermott, P Domican, S Ormsby; S Purcell, C Dineen, M O’Carroll; M Finneran, K Mannion; D Keenan, P Garvey, C Cregg; J Rogers, D Shine, G Heneghan.