Colm O’Rourke’s Meath need to reach Leinster final to be sure of avoiding Tailteann Cup after league defeat in Newbridge

NFL Division 2: Kildare 0-13, Meath 0-8

Meath’s Donal Lenihan collides with Kildare’s Mick O’Grady during their NFL clash at St Conleth’s Park yesterday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

‘Time to Say Goodbye’ was played at the final whistle at Newbridge yesterday, acknowledging the imminent closure of St Conleth’s Park for a major redevelopment. Kildare, who won’t play there again until 2025 when it will have a 12,000 capacity, signed off with a pleasing win, their second on the bounce.

Glenn Ryan spoke of a disappointing league overall but accepted that two wins in a week, the first securing Division 2 status, the second possibly a place in the championship last 16, is an agreeable conclusion. Kildare won well in the face of a limited opposition which had none of the attacking brio that characterised opening wins over Cork and Clare.

The result means Kildare finish ahead of Meath, taking fifth place, and leaves the Royals in Tailteann Cup contention unless they reach the Leinster final. In four weeks, they face Offaly or Longford in the quarter-finals, with Dublin on the other side of the draw.

“We’re dependent now on the likes of Clare and Cavan not reaching provincial finals,” said Meath manager Colm O’Rourke. “It’s not the sort of situation (that’s ideal), but we still have control of that. Beat Offaly or Longford and win the semi-final, you’ll still guarantee yourself last 16 and don’t have to worry about anyone else.”

Kildare were good value for their win, with Darragh Kirwan causing Meath numerous problems in an opening half that ended 0-8 to 0-3 in the home team’s favour. Three points came off Kirwan, and he engineered another via a free converted by Jack Robinson, who also scored a mark after a spectacular catch.

David Hyland kicked a fine score on his 100th appearance and Kildare had four points when Meath managed a first, a 21st-minute free from Jack Flynn.

Meath’s first from play off Cillian O’Sullivan took 28 minutes, and while they improved towards the end of the half, they offered little real attacking threat. Before the half ended, sweeper Eoin Harkin came off and full-back Michael Flood was relieved of any more hardship at half-time, Adam O’Neill picking up Kirwan, who kicked two more points in the second half, the last a free.

Having playing into the breeze, Kildare widened the lead to eight points, 0-11 to 0-3, within 15 minutes of the resumption, Kirwan, Robinson and Paul Cribbin all on target. Meath outscored Kildare from there to the finish, sub Donal Lenihan kicking four frees, but never threatened a goal.

O’Rourke said his players were keen to respond to a tame defeat to Dublin but didn’t bring training intensity to the match. “Ah, we’ve a lot of work to do on our defence, that’s a big issue. Our accuracy rate in shooting has been very poor throughout the whole league – that’s one area of major concern and that’s something we give a lot of attention to.”

The talk was of long-term objectives.

“I would certainly be still confident that we will have a good team. It may take two or three years.”

Opposite number Ryan has four weeks before facing Wicklow or Carlow in the championship.

“We spoke last week about beating Limerick . . . to try to create a bit of momentum and to give ourselves a bit of a feel-good factor moving on in the weeks ahead. It was good to get that.”

Scorers – Kildare: D Kirwan 0-5 (1f); J Robinson 0-3 (1m, 2f); P Woodgate 0-2 (2f); J Hyland (f), D Hyland, P Cribbin 0-1 each. Meath: D Lenihan 0-4 (4f); C O’Sullivan, J Flynn (f), R Jones, M Costello (f) 0-1 each.

Kildare – M Donnellan 7; M O’Grady 7, S Ryan 7, R Houlihan 8; D Hyland 7, K Flynn 7, J Sargent 7; A Masterson 7, K O’Callaghan 7; B Coffey 7, B McCormack 7, A Beirne 7; J Robinson 7, D Kirwan 8, P Woodgate 6. Subs: Paul Cribbin 7 for Beirne (h-t); D Flynn 6 for Robinson & J Hyland 6 for Woodgate (51); K Feely 6 for Masterson (53); P McDermott for Coffey (64).

Meath – H Hogan 7; A O’Neill 6, M Flood 5, H O’Higgins 6; R Ryan 6, P Harnan 7, E Harkin 5; R Jones 7, D McGowan 6; J Flynn 6, M Costello 6, J Scully 6; A Lynch 5, D Moriarty 5, C O’Sullivan 6. Subs: D Lenihan 7 for Lynch (inj, 29); C Hickey 6 for Harkin (32); J O’Connor 6 for Flood (h-t); Thomas O‘Reilly 6 for O’Sullivan (47); K Curtis for Moriarty (60).

Ref – J Gilmartin (Sligo)