| 10.7°C Dublin

McGeeney hails Lily rookies as Ryan return ruined

Glenn Ryan didn't enjoy a happy return to his long-time stomping ground as his native Kildare subjected Longford to a double-score beating at St Conleth's Park.

This was little more than a gentle pipe-opener in front of an official attendance of 1,100, although the absence of intensity didn't prevent referee Niall Ward from doling out eight yellow cards.

Most of the best football was played in the opening half, at the end of which Kildare led by 0-9 to 0-6. Eoghan O'Flaherty was the only multiple scorer for the hosts in the first half, with two points -- they showed a threat from numerous sectors.

Last year's minors Tommy Moolick and Fionn Dowling had fine showings, and rookie corner-back Ciaran Fitzpatrick was very impressive.

Of the more established players, Eamonn Callaghan was magnificent but Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney reserved his highest praise for the youngsters.

"I thought we could have gotten a couple more scores," said McGeeney. "We didn't have much of our first team out so it was good to see them sticking to the same type of play.

"Fionn scored two; Tommy was knocking boys on their backsides for fun. If you go through the history of Gaelic games there are always 18 or 19-year-olds, whether it is the likes of Ronan Clarke or (Peter) Canavan or Rory Gallagher, fellas who can make a big impression on their first year.

"I think they are special players, but you only realise being special when you work hard."

Bernard McElvaney got Longford off to a good start with a brilliant point from a tight angle and Donal McElligott doubled their advantage in the fifth minute. Paul Kelly had a deflected shot well saved by Kildare 'keeper Shane Connolly -- the wing-forward should have had a free, as he was pushed in the act of shooting.

Mark O'Sullivan got Kildare on the board and by the ninth minute they were ahead, when O'Flaherty slotted his first free.

A run of four points in five minutes mid-way through the half established their advantage, the pick of the scores coming from raiding half-back Mark Scanlon at the end of a strong run.

Callaghan and Karl Ennis added further eye-catching points and the Lilies pushed home their advantage after the resumption, when Longford could only manage two points from the boot of McElligott.

Kildare were never at full throttle and Sean McCormack wasted a gilt-edged goal opportunity in the 44th minute but with O'Flaherty, O'Sullivan and Dowling raising white flags, the All Whites were cruising. Willie Heffernan was involved in many of the winners' scores at full-forward and he earned his reward with a late driven point after a one-two with Padraig O'Neill to became his side's ninth scorer.

Scorers -- Kildare: E O'Flaherty 0-6(0-5f), F Dowling, M O'Sullivan 0-2 each, P O'Neill, T Moolick, E Callaghan, M Scanlon, W Heffernan, K Ennis 0-1 each. Longford: D McElligott 0-6(0-4f), B McElvaney, P Dowd 0-1 each.

Kildare -- S Connolly; O Lyons, D Hendy, C Fitzpatrick; M Scanlon, M Foley, E Callaghan; H Lynch, P O'Neill; T Moolick, E O'Flaherty, M O'Sullivan; K Ennis, W Heffernan, F Dowling. Subs: A Smith for Dowling (56), E McCormack for Ennis (56), D Whyte for Lynch (57), C Tiernan for Moolick (69).

Longford -- J McKenna; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; CP Smyth, K Diffley, S Mulligan; J Keegan, B McElvaney; P Kelly, D McElligott, D Barden; J Noonan, P Dowd, S McCormack. Subs: E Williams for Kelly (34), N Farrell for Smyth (57), T Gallagher for Reilly (59), JJ Mathews for Noonan (59), J O'Shea for Dowd (68).

Ref -- N Ward (Westmeath).

Irish Independent