Kildare's GUBU show once more as Down pounce
Down 3-13 Kildare 1-15
KILDARE staged their own version of a grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre, but sadly, not unprecedented finish to a league match against opposition from Ulster at Newbridge yesterday.
Last season Tyrone ventured south and plundered two points in a late, late shock victory, and this time Down were the spoilsports for the home team and their supporters.
Trailing by three points as the clock ticked past the 70th minute, Down had no right to expect anything other than a pat on the back from manager Jim McCorry for a gallant but ultimately futile effort.
But this is sport, and arguably more worryingly for Lilywhites manager Jason Ryan, it was avoidable.
Credit to a resurgent Down for going a little crazy in the best possible way and slamming 2-1 inside a minute for an amazing climax to a competitive and interesting match.
On the debit side for Kildare, the manner of losing to Tyrone last year was careless; allowing a repetition against Down was just an awful let-down for themselves, the management, and the home followers.
They did so much so competently for so long, only to tear the proverbial backside out of it by falling apart in front of their own goal in that incident-packed minute of madness.
First, Down substitute Arthur McConville flashed home a goal from close range, to be followed with almost indecent haste by a Paul Devlin point, and finally Donal O'Hare palming home another goal after sub Caolan Mooney had opened up Kildare's last line of defence.
The story might have been so much different if Kildare had scored from a 50th-minute penalty conceded by Down goalkeeper Michael Cunningham.
Cunningam brought down Gary White as the Sarsfields man looked certain to score. The outcome was a black card for the goalie, who was replaced by Stephen Kane.
Padraig Fogarty had to wait for all the name-taking and card-flashing by ref Anthony Nolan, and for Kane to make his way to the goal before finally taking the spot-kick.
The sub goalie became an instant hero by diving low to his left to make what proved to be a crucial save.
At that stage Kildare led by 1-12 to 1-11, with the Lilies' goal coming in the first half by Niall Kelly and Down's green flag raised in the 39th minute by ex-Aussie Rules player Mooney.
No wonder Down manager Jim McCorry was smiling afterwards.
"Maybe the scoreline does flatter us a little, with two of those goals coming right at the end, but I certainly think we deserved the two points. Our players worked very hard.
"I don't think there was any doubt about the penalty, but for our goalkeeper to come off the bench, make a save like that, was very inspirational, for the rest of the team.
"I suppose you could say that was the pivotal moment that turned the game for us.
"They still came back at us and they got those three points which put them in the lead."
McCorry admitted that the rise in tempo was something of an all-or-nothing approach in the hectic finish, particularly aiming high balls in at the towering McConville, but it worked.
Kildare, too, worked hard, with Fionn Dowling, Eoghan O'Flaherty, and Darroch Mulhall contributing some superbly taken scores from play and frees throughout the game.
Donal O'Hare, who finished with 1-6 for the winners, also had his eye in for placed balls, and Conor Maginn, Conor Laverty and Paul Devlin also shone in an overall lively and productive team effort.
Hugh Lynch went off injured after only 16 minutes for Kildare and was replaced by White.
At half-time Kildare led by 1-7 to 0-9, and a Padraig O'Neill score within seconds of the throw-in for the second half showed the Lilywhites were very much in positive mood.
Mooney's arrival for Down paid off very quickly, with his goal within four minutes of the restart, and from then on, the game was played at a high tempo, very physical, very intense, with little separating the sides.
Ref Nolan gave Down two black cards - the first for the goalkeeper Cunningham's incident and the second a 62nd-minute dismissal for Maginn.
If anything those losses inspired a greater effort from the visitors, particularly after the penalty save.
That said, the job seemed almost complete when Mulhall with two scores, and O'Flaherty from a free, pushed Kildare to 1-15 with just two minutes of normal time and two of added time left for play.
Then, biff, bang, wallop, two goals and a point for Down and a Sunday evening of misery for Kildare.
To his credit, manager Ryan faced the post-mortem head on.
"Today, in my opinion, our performance was good enough to win. Going into those last few minutes we were exactly where we wanted to be, with a three-point cushion," he said,
"Most teams would take that. So it's very disappointing.
"Missing the penalty was important but we still had chances.
"I'd still see some positives, in that we were winning that game right at the finish. But it was a stinker of a finish."
Man of the Match: Donal O'Hare
Scorers - Down: D O'Hare 1-6 (0-4fs), P Devlin 0-6 (2fs), C Mooney, A McConville 1-0 each, D O'Hagan 0-1. Kildare: N Kelly 1-1, F Dowling, D Mulhall (2fs), E O'Flaherty (3fs) 0-4 each, P Fogarty 0-2.
Down - M Cunningham 6; D O'Hagan 7, C Garvey 7, L Howard 7; D Turley 7, B McArdle 7, K McKernan7 ; N Madine 7, P Fitzpatrick 7; R Johnston 7, C Laverty 7, P Devlin 8; J Johnston 7, C Maginn 7, D O'Hare 9. Subs: C Mooney 7 for R Johnston (h-t), M Poland 7 for C Garvey (45), S Kane 6 for M Cunningham (50 BC), D O'Hanlon 6 for P Fitzpatrick (55), A McConville 6 for J Johnston (58), P Turley for C Maginn (63 BC).
Kildare - M Donnellan 6; C Fitzpatrick 6, P Kelly 7, M O'Grady 6; O Lyons 7, D O'Brien 7, E Doyle 6; H Lynch (n/rate, inj 16 mins), P O'Neill 7; E Callaghan 7, N Kelly 7, E O'Flaherty 7; D Mulhall 7, F Dowling 7, P Fogarty 7. Subs: G White 7 for H Lynch (inj 16), F Conway 6 for E Doyle (58), D Hyland for P Kelly (63), K Cribbin for D Mulhall (69)
Ref - A Nolan (Wicklow)