Wednesday 13 December 2017

Louth have no response to Kildare's late surge


Louth’s Ciaran Byrne tries to control the ball under pressure from David Hyland in St Conleth's Park, Newbridge.
Louth’s Ciaran Byrne tries to control the ball under pressure from David Hyland in St Conleth's Park, Newbridge.

Dermot Crowe in Newbridge

IN the end Kildare won with a comfort that hid their troubled periods and belied a Louth spell in ascendancy which arose just before the interval and lasted 10 minutes into the second half. At that juncture the visitors led by four points, but for the remainder they scored only two more as Kildare moved on to a different plane and ran them silly.

Over the last 25 minutes Kildare scored 1-10, an unexpected feast after they managed only nine points until then. They got stronger in the warm evening sun and made telling use of their bench. Tomas O'Connor came on in the first half and it was his goal in the 65th minute that broke Louth's resistance. Kildare's lead stretched from two to five and Louth were finished.

Ciaran Byrne emerged as Louth's star player with five points from play. His last score, and his team's final flag, came in the 54th minute. It put them one up but John Doyle levelled nearing the hour and then Shane Lennon missed a simple free entering the final 10 minutes that seemed to drain the spirit from their challenge.

Lennon, a thorn in the past for Kildare, had an off day and was called ashore soon after. Within a few minutes Seanie Johnston, one of the subs introduced, kicked a massive score. Doyle added to it and then came O'Connor's coup de grace. Points by Eoghan O'Flaherty and Doyle again were added dressing. Kildare move onto round three next weekend; Louth look back on another year of loss and regret.

No team has taken such succour from the football qualifiers as the Kieran McGeeney-led Kildare. Their track record since 2008 speaks for itself – 16 played, 15 wins, one draw – and each year they have managed to wind their way back into Croke Park at least as one of the final eight contenders. To reach that point in early August they need two more wins.

Three years ago on their way to an ill-fated Leinster final Louth swept Kildare aside, but the follow-through hasn't materialised. They remain a team with potential, not always a sure bet to deliver. This year has been no different: a big win over Laois undone by a home loss to Wexford, then a rare qualifier win over Antrim in Drogheda a fortnight ago and, finally, last night's disappointing fade-out.

Kildare are not the finished article but they'll be relieved to have found a winning groove after the Dublin defeat that asked questions of the team management as well as the players, irrespective of Dublin's form. Here was a match they needed to win. Ironically, their last qualifier defeat was to Louth in 2007.

The first half was lively and energetic, with the sides level three times and Louth closing with two late points to lead 0-10 to 0-8. Louth were fortunate not to concede a goal late in the half, a crucial block by Shane McCoy denying O'Connor. The teams were tied at 0-8 a piece and a goal there would have given Kildare a huge pre-interval fillip.

Instead Louth attacked and Byrne scored his fourth point from play to edge them back in front and in injury-time Brian White added another. Kildare had started promisingly, running from all angles at a hard-pressed Louth defence. After six minutes they were three points to nil up, the last of those scores a peach from Doyle. Doyle and Eoghan O'Flaherty each finished with three points from play. Alan Smith was another lively contributor when introduced.

Louth took eight minutes to score, with Colm Judge, a player back in form, opening their account from a free. They left Lennon and Byrne inside in a two-man line and further afield they didn't get one of the nights from Paddy Keenan they needed. Kildare left off Mick Foley after the heavy defeat to Dublin, Peter Kelly given the task of marking Lennon.

Kildare had a scare when a dropping ball from Adrian Reid skipped off Shane Connolly's fingertips and just past the goalpost for a 45. Connolly saw the 45 drift wide but then his short kick out, a favoured Kildare tactic, was intercepted and Byrne kicked a facile score. There is plenty room for improvement but 1-19 is an admirable score and they've found a familiar road to redemption.

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

Kildare: S Connolly; D Hyland, P Kelly , H McGrillen; P Cribbin, M O'Flaherty, E Bolton; D Flynn, P O'Neill; Daniel Flynn, M Conway, N Kelly; E O'Flaherty; N Kelly, P Brophy, J Doyle. Subs: T O'Connor for Cribbin (31 mins); A Smith for Conway (42); E O'Callaghan for Daniel Flynn (44); S Johnston for Kelly (56); J Byrne for M O'Flaherty (63).

Louth: S McCoy; P Rath, D Finnegan, J Bingham; D Crilly, J O'Brien, A Reid; P Keenan, C Rafferty; R Finnegan, B White, D Maguire, C Judge, S Lennon, C Byrne.

Subs: C Bellew for Rath inj 5 mins); R Carroll for Rafferty (half-time); G Hoey for Finnegan (56); D Clarke for Lennon (64); K Roger for Maguire (70).

Referee: R Hickey (Clare).

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