Monday 11 December 2017

Hiding by Dubs woke up Lilies

KILDARE 1-19 LOUTH 0-15

Louth's Dessie Finnegan under pressure from Kildare duo Mikey Conway and John Doyle
Louth's Dessie Finnegan under pressure from Kildare duo Mikey Conway and John Doyle
Tomás O'Connor who scored a goal against Louth
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

KILDARE'S remarkable unbeaten run – played 16, drew one – in the qualifiers under Kieran McGeeney survived but not without a serious scare in a mile-a-minute thriller in Newbridge

All Ireland SFC Qualifiers Rd 2

It was every bit as feisty and nail-biting as expected, as Louth – the last team to score a qualifier win over the Lilywhites (in 2007) – were put to the sword but the final score somewhat flattered the victors.

Kildare trailed by two (0-8 to 0-10) at half-time and Brian White missed a free to put Louth five points up within 10 minutes of the restart.

White actually scored a brilliant point from play minutes later to hold the gap at four and it was the introduction of Tomas O'Connor (remember him?), the releasing of Eoghan O'Flaherty to purely attack, Kildare's superior bench and everyone pitching in that eventually swung it their way.

O'Connor's introduction at full-forward had all the effect of a fox in a hen-house. With Eamonn Callaghan and Seanie Johnston also among the Lilies' cavalry, they kept Louth scoreless for the final 18 minutes.

Johnston scored from an impossible angle when it was 15-all, O'Connor then won a free which Johnny Doyle slotted and when Alan Smith then ballooned a shot into the square, the big Clane man caught it, shrugged off Dessie Finnegan and suddenly the Lilies were five points clear with four minutes left.

O'Connor, who also forced a great save from Shane McCoy within minutes of his arrival, was Kildare's 'go-to-guy' last summer but wore number 28 on Saturday, so why aren't we seeing more of him?

"Everybody has to remember the times when people said there was too much ball kicked into him, it goes both ways," McGeeney shrugged.

"Tom knows the big thing for him is to score and he did that today. He should have had three (goals) and he got one," he quipped.

The Kildare boss was frustrated by the amount of cheap ball they gave away – "18 times to Louth's seven in the first half!" he groaned – and that remains a worrying trait in a short-passing team.

But going Route One to O'Connor paid dividends and the way they refused to fold was impressive, fighting back several times with the sort of character conspicuously absent against Dublin last time out.

Johnny Doyle pulled out a few timely, trademark boomers, corner-back Hugh McGrillen chipped in with a valuable point and Eamonn Callaghan, Paudie O'Neill and Daryl Flynn took over midfield eventually when Paddy Keenan – head bandaged following an early clash with a team-mate – finally tired after another heroic shift as Louth's warrior-leader.

This was redemption of a sort and McGeeney indicated some tough talking had been done.

"They looked at the Dublin game and decided they were lazy. Against a fast-moving team like Dublin, if you're lazy, you're going to be punished. They put their hands up, we put our hands up.

"We're putting a lot of pressure on young people's shoulders and that's hard," he conceded. "I still think it's the way forward for them, they're all standing up and coming back for more and that's all we can ask."

With Michael Foley and Callaghan reportedly carrying knocks, Morgan O'Flaherty and Mikey Conway both started, with Peter Kelly at full-back, O'Flaherty at centre-back and Conway starting on the forty in their constantly rotating forward line.

They are still capable of some horrendous bloopers.

They actually won eight of the first nine kick-outs to lead 4-1 after 10 minutes but Keenan's return from some running repairs powered Louth to a point lead within seven minutes and it swung like a rollercoaster from there in.

Kelly kept Louth's championship top scorer Shane Lennon relatively quiet but a series of defenders struggled to control their brilliant young Aussie Rules target Ciaran Byrne (19), who scored four of his 0-5 from play before half-time.

Derek Maguire's pace also troubled them and, at times, Lilies 'keeper Shane Connolly didn't help either.

He was blessed not to concede a goal with one stray clearance which yielded a '45' and then coughed up a point off his next poor kick-out. Louth should have been more than two ahead at the interval and had White not missed that free to go five clear things might have been different.

Kildare responded with five points without reply to inch ahead and while Byrne then equalised that was Louth's last score of the game. Crucially, Lennon missed a short free with 10 minutes left that summed up their ebbing energy. In fact, Kildare outscored them 1-11 (2fs) to 0-5 in the second half.

The home side's superior fitness undoubtedly sustained them in the frenetic final quarter and frustration was etched on the face of Louth manager Aidan O'Rourke who was once McGeeney's right-hand man in Kildare.

"For three-quarters of that game we were the better team," O'Rourke exclaimed. "Ultimately, we just fell short in terms of composure. Kildare are one of the best conditioned teams in the country and we're only playing catch-up in that respect. Maybe that caught up with us in the end."

Scorers – Kildare: J Doyle 0-5 (2fs), T O'Connor 1-0, E O'Flaherty 0-3, M Conway 0-2fs, H McGrillen, E Bolton, Daryl Flynn, P O'Neill, P Cribbin, N Kelly, P Brophy, S Johnston, A Smith 0-1 each. Louth: C Byrne 0-5, B White 0-4 (2fs), C Judge 0-3 (1f), S Lennon 0-2, R Finnegan 0-1.

Kildare – S Connolly 6; D Hyland 6, P Kelly 8, H McGrillen 7; P Cribbin 6, M O'Flaherty 8, E Bolton 8; Daryl Flynn 6, P O'Neill 7; Daniel Flynn 6, M Conway 7; E O'Flaherty 9; J Doyle 8, P Brophy 5, N Kelly 6. Subs: T O'Connor 8 for Cribbin (32), A Smith 6 for Conway (42), E Callaghan 8 for Flynn (45), S Johnston 8 for Kelly (56), J Byrne 6 for M O'Flaherty (63).

Louth – S McCoy 7; P Rath 6, D Finnegan 5, J Bingham 6; D Crilly 5, J O'Brien 7, A Reid 5; P Keenan 8 , B White 7; C Judge 7, C Rafferty 5, R Finnegan 6; D Maguire 7, S Lennon 6, C Byrne 8. Subs: R Carroll 5 for Rafferty (h-t), P Smith 5 for R Finnegan (56), D Clarke 5 for Lennon (64), K Rogers 5 for Maguire (70).

Ref – R Hickey (Clare)

Game at a glance

Man of the match

Eoghan O'Flaherty (Kildare)

O'Flaherty kick-started Kildare's forwards when released to a pure attacking role in the second half.

Turning point

Kildare's introduction of Tomas O'Connor, releasing O'Flaherty to the forwards.

Talking point

The scoreline flattered Kildare but, considering how they folded against Dublin last time out, outscoring Louth 1-11 (2f) to 0-5 after the break showed character.

Magic moment

Victory was already secured when O'Flaherty spun over a sublime third point, using the breeze and the outside of his foot from 45 metres out.

Ref watch

When things threatened to boil over in the second half, Rory Hickey stayed on top of it.

What they said

Kieran McGeeney (Kildare manager):

"I was very happy and very proud of the boys. You can only show character when things are going against you and you are low on the ground and they did that."

Aidan O'Rourke (Louth manager):

"We pushed on and went four up in the second half and their heads were dropped, but Kildare have been in this position before and their ability to make the right decisions under pressure was the difference."

Match statistics

Wides

Kildare 7 (5 first half)

Louth 6 (4)

Frees

Kildare 21 (9)

Louth 22 (13)

Yellow cards

Kildare 2 (O'Neill 40, Flynn 55)

Louth 4 (Rafferty 25, Judge 32, Byrne 55, Connolly 61)

Red cards

Kildare 0; Louth 0

What's next?

Kildare progress to the third round of the qualifiers next Saturday while Louth's summer is finished.

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