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Perfect start to reign of Ryan

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KILDARE retained the Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup, but there was no-one getting carried away in Newbridge yesterday, and rightly so.

After all, 12 months ago they won the pre-season tournament with an extra-time victory over a Dublin team that would finish the season as All-Ireland champions. That was followed up with a strong league campaign that ended with a league semi-final appearance, but that wasn't enough to save Kieran McGeeney from the chop as manager.

His successor Jason Ryan was a selector last term, so he knows that this means nothing in the large scheme of things. Nonetheless, the Waterford native was delighted that Kildare could continue winning games while new players, and those returning to fitness, could put some much-needed mileage on the clock.

"I felt that both teams were a little apprehensive at the start and it wasn't perfect," said Ryan.

 

SILLY

"Both teams were making silly errors, silly handling, and balls being dropped and kicked away, but we just felt as it went on that aspect improved. And as long as that keeps improving, we'll be happy.

"Our tackle count is up on last week, the ball we turned over is up on last week, but unfortunately the amount of ball we gave away is up as well. But that gives us something to work on.

"It is January at the end of the day. You don't expect things to be perfect in January and you probably don't train for things to be perfect."

Meath counterpart Mick O'Dowd was satisfied to have kept Kildare to 1-10 and, despite losing, expressed satisfaction that the pre-season tournament had served its purpose.

"We got five games, which is important, and just the way the weather is today, I was delighted that the game went ahead.

"In the month of January, you experiment. That involves putting out different teams, so it's hard to get the flow from one week to the next if you are being true to your word and giving fellas chances. There was a lot of positives in the game and I'm sure when we look at the game we'll see that, but we're disappointed to lose at the same time."

Kildare got off to the perfect start with a goal from midfielder Thomas Moolick at the end of a slick move started by half-back Kevin Murnaghan and also involving Cathal McNally and Paddy Brophy.

Last week's four-goal hero Pádraig Fogarty added a point, but Meath responded with a point each from their full-forward line of Stephen Bray, Éamonn Wallace and Michael Newman (free) to reduce the margin to the minimum.

Kildare stretched that to a goal once more with a couple of scores, including a fine effort from McNally after Emmet Bolton had taken the ball out of defence purposefully.

Meath were looking dangerous themselves, though, and points from David Larkin, Bray and Wallace brought them level.

Newman almost had a goal in injury-time but Mick Foley brilliantly toe-poked his shot off the line. A Darroch Mulhall free sent the hosts into a 1-4 to 0-6 lead at the interval.

The second half was tightly contested, but the Kildare defence was dominant, with Gary White, Mick Foley, Kevin Murnaghan and Paul Cribbin prominent, while they managed to pick up a greater share of the midfield breaks too.

Mulhall exerted an increased influence from his deep position and two brilliant points from distance with either foot, allied with a couple of good scores from half-back Cribbin, enabled the Lilywhites to push into a four-point lead. In a game of this nature, on such a heavy pitch, that was always likely to be sufficient, and Kildare held on with a degree of comfort, although Damien Carroll could have made it interesting had he done better with a late opportunity.


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