McGeeney pleased by Lilywhites' late surge
IT'S the time of year when managers put almost as much stock in performance as results and both Kieran McGeeney and Pat Flanagan wore cloaks of quiet satisfaction after yesterday's Cusack Park clash.
McGeeney pointed to his side's final-quarter power play that yielded four points to secure a passage to a final date with Louth, while Westmeath boss Flanagan watched a very experimental side dominate for large periods.
The sides were tied on eight points each when Kildare took over. Fionn Dowling hit three points in that period, including one from a penalty that was harshly awarded against Darren Quinn in the Westmeath goal when he came out to block Eamonn Callaghan's shot.
Dowling opted to take his point and put three between the sides with that effort before sub Emmet Bolton sealed the win late on to set up a showdown with the Wee County, who shocked the Lilywhites in the Leinster SFC in Navan last year.
"I'd be happy with that performance," McGeeney said afterwards. "Pat has a good defensive system there and he wants to tighten things up after last year and he's doing that. He's playing on the counter-attack, dropping (Denis) Glennon back deep. And we were playing into their hands a lot.
"In the second half we were a wee bit better, we ran the ball and held on to possession more. It was an even second half but, in the last 15 minutes, we had scoring chances and took them. And in tight games that's what you want to see when the game is on the line. I'm happy with that result, I like close games that you come away with. It will probably help us more than any of the other matches so far."
Despite opening up a 0-4 to no score lead by the 10th minute, Kildare were on the back foot for much of the first half. By the time referee Brian O'Shea brought the first 35 to a close, Westmeath had hit six unanswered points with Glennon (four), Alan Giles and Peter Tormey on target.
Without a score in 25 minutes, McGeeney introduced Brian Flanagan and Bolton, who helped quell the influence of Glennon. Kildare got back on top almost immediately on the restart, thanks to some fabulous long-range free-taking from David Whyte.
Flanagan introduced Des Dolan at this stage and his first involvement was to draw a free that Glennon converted and although Westmeath led again at the three-quarter mark after Ger Egan's point made it 0-8 to 0-7, it was a rare attack of substance for Westmeath in a second half that yielded just two points.
Kildare's four-point blitz came towards the final quarter and included the penalty, which Flanagan was unhappy with. "It was strange, to say the least," said the Tyrrellspass boss. "I've never seen a penalty given for a goalkeeper blocking like that before. He wasn't anywhere close to the player. There were a few decisions we would have felt aggrieved by but it wasn't the referee that beat us today.
"We ran out of steam. We've always said that our main objective is on February 6 against Louth and we did two very hard sessions on Tuesday and Thursday so if we were going to go out and out for this game we probably would have relaxed a little bit during the week. But our objective is two points against Louth."
After successive relegations and a 14-game losing streak in league football that stretches back to the Division 2 final of 2008 when they overcame Dublin, Flanagan knows what his objectives are.
"There's a lot written about Westmeath not winning a game in the league in the last two years, so our objective is to get two points on the board and get out of Division 3. Look at any of the teams and there are very few you'd say you are definitely going to win. It's a division where nearly all the teams in are very evenly matched.
"It wouldn't have been the best scenario to be playing against Louth a week before you were due to play them in the league. We gave players game time and if you look at the team we had out there today, there were several changes from the team that played DIT and from the team that played Dublin."
SCORERS -- Kildare: F Dowling 0-6 (4f, 1pen), D Whyte 0-3 (1f, 0-1 '45), A Smith, M Foley, E Bolton 0-1 each. Westmeath: Denis Glennon 0-5 (5f), G Egan, A Giles, P Tormey (f) 0-1 each.
Kildare -- S Connolly; H McGrillen, C Fitzpatrick, M Scanlon; E Callaghan, T O'Neill, D Whyte; M Foley, P O'Neill; T Moolick, A Smith, F Dowling; R Walsh, W Heffernan, M O'Sullivan. Subs: K Cribbin for O'Sullivan (32), E Bolton for Walsh, B Flanagan for Scanlon (both h-t), J Gatley for Heffernan (44), H Lynch for Moolick (55).
Westmeath -- D Quinn; R Doyle, R English, J Gaffey; M Curley, A Finnan, D Harte; B Murtagh, N Kilcoyne; A Giles, David Glennon, G Egan; P Tormey, Denis Glennon, S Quinn. Subs: D Dolan for Tormey (45 mins), J Dolan for Curley (54), F Wilson for Giles, J Connellan for David Glennon (both 65), D Daly for Kilcoyne (68).
Ref -- B O'Shea (Dublin)