Sunday 25 February 2018

Kildare put lacklustre Meath to the sword in impressive return to Division Two

Meath 0-16 Kildare 3-17

Kevin Feely of Kildare gets past Cillian O'Sullivan, left, and Graham Reilly of Meath during the Allianz Football League Division 2 Round 1 match between Meath and Kildare at Páirc Táilteann in Navan, Co. Meath. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Kevin Feely of Kildare gets past Cillian O'Sullivan, left, and Graham Reilly of Meath during the Allianz Football League Division 2 Round 1 match between Meath and Kildare at Páirc Táilteann in Navan, Co. Meath. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Conor McKeon

Conor McKeon

THEY groaned in Navan this afternoon when it was announced that there would be four minutes of additional time.

Too deflated either to watch or leave.

The promise of spring, the opening day of the League and a new regime had long since dissipated.

Instead, Kildare – a team bearing ugly scars from an O’Byrne Cup semi-final collapse – got the big opening day away win they so craved.

Indeed, a team featuring 13 of the 15 who melted under the heat of a scratch Dublin selection in Newbridge a fortnight back, played with a discernable sense of purpose and obliterated a hugely naïve Meath team in an impressive opening half, fully worth their 10 point win.

The upshot is that Meath face a rough Division 2 campaign already on the back foot and seeking drastic and immediate improvement.

Kildare can dream.

They hit 2-6 to 0-2 in the first 23 minutes today to swamp the home team and send them into a daze from which they never fully recovered.

In that spell, Meath were uniformly poor.

Guilty of handling errors, sloppy passing and most criminally of all, a complete failure to protect their defence with anything even resembling a system.

So it was that that Ben McCormack slotted Kildare’s opening score – a neatly finished goal – after 14 seconds.

Donal Keogan misread the pass and allowed McCormack turn him but the scarcity of protection was alarming and Meath paid that price repeatedly all through a demoralising first half.

Kildare were more measured, more organised and visibly stronger in the tackle.

And helpfully, any time they ventured into Meath’s half in possession, they were free to take on their men without the inconvenience of a sweeper or spare tackler.

McCormack, Kelly and Paul Cribbin all thrived.

In that first half hour, Meath displayed a complete inability to protect their own defence and only a singular, laborious to method to breaking down Kildare’s.

They were unlucky too.

They should have had a penalty – or at least a close-range free - when Cillian O’Sullivan was the victim of repeated and obvious fouling whilst haring through and from that fruitless move, they were caught on the hop again for Kildare’s second goal.

The ever-classy Kelly applied the finishing touches this time but really all Kildare had to do to create the chance was win a kick-out, run directly at Meath and watch as they crumbled.

Meath strung a sequence of points just before half time but at 2-7 to 0-7 at the break, their chances are reliant upon a quick goal and/or a Kildare meltdown.

They got neither.

McEntee’s team applied as much pressure as they could but Kildare kept picking off scores on the break.

A goal might at least have tested Kildare’s bottle but the damage was done.

SCORERS – Kildare: N Kelly 2-1, B McCormack 1-3, P Cribbin, N Flynn (2f) 0-3 each, K Cribbin 0-2, E Doyle, K Feely, O Lyons, D Flynn 0-1 each. Meath: D Lenihan 0-7 (5f), G Reilly 0-4, C O’Sullivan, A Forde 0-2 each, B Menton 0-1

KILDARE: M Donnellan; M O’Grady, D Hyland, O Lyons; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Cribbin; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly, P Cribbin; B McCormack, D Flynn, N Flynn. Subs: C McNally for Conway (61), P Kelly for O’Grady (62), S Ryan for Byrne (65), E Callaghan for N Kelly (67), C Hartley for D Flynn (69), D Slattery for McCormack (69).

MEATH: J Hannigan; M Burke, C McGill, D Keogan; B Power, S McEntee, A Douglas; C O’Brien, B Menton; C O’Sullivan, A Forde, G Reilly; E Wallace, B Sheridan, D Lenihan. Subs: D McQuillan for Burke (21 black card), A Flanagan for O’Brien (h-t), R Ó Coileáin for Power (h-t), B O’Brien for Sheridan (46), C Downey for Wallace (51), W Carry for McEntee (65)

REF: C Branagan (Down)

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