Wednesday 13 November 2019

Ryan's new Lilies find early flourish in win over Louth

Kildare 1-16 Louth 0-7 - O'Byrne Cup

Kildare's Eamon Murphy in action against David McComish of Louth during their O'Byrne Cup clash at St Conleth's Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Kildare's Eamon Murphy in action against David McComish of Louth during their O'Byrne Cup clash at St Conleth's Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Louth's Ruairi Moore in action against Cian O'Donoghue of Kildare during their O'Byrne Cup clash at St Conleth's Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Louth's David McComish, supported by team-mate Daniel O'Connor, in action against Padraig O'Neill of Kildare during their O'Byrne Cup clash at St Conleth's Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Kildare's Eoghan O'Flahery in action against David McComish of Louth during their O'Byrne Cup clash at St Conleth's Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Louth's Derek Maguire in action against Eoin Doyle of Kildare during their O'Byrne Cup clash at St Conleth's Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

And so the new adventure begins for two counties whose stock value, in league terms at least, is down on 2014.

Defensive instability was the shared theme for both last year as Kildare dropped out of Division 1 while Louth were relegated from Division 2.

Kildare's average giveaway per game was over 20 points while Louth conceded an average of almost 19 points in a seven-match campaign, which failed to yield a single win.

They later beat Westmeath in the Leinster championship before again leaking heavily against Kildare and Tyrone. Kildare ran into more defensive difficulties against Meath in the Leinster semi-final and while they regrouped as per norm in the All-Ireland qualifiers, the run ended against Monaghan in Round 4.

A new season brings an extensive range of challenges and requirements for every county but the evidence from last year suggests that improved security will be very high up the priority list for Jason Ryan and Colin Kelly.

Ryan, now into his second season as Kildare manager, has had lots of time to reflect on the lessons of 2014 while it's all brand new to Colin Kelly, who had his first outing as a senior inter-county manager in Newbridge yesterday.

It brought no joy as Kildare galloped to the easiest of victories without ever having to stretch themselves. Louth continued with the 19-point concession rate, which should have been considerably higher as Kildare kicked 10 wides.

Worryingly for Louth, all but one of their seven points came from frees, underlining just how difficult their new-look attack found it to make progress against a compact Kildare defence.

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Louth failed to score between the 18th and 48th minutes, a period in which Kildare scored 1-9.

Benefited

Darroch Mulhall, whose nine-point return came from frees and open play, and Tomas O'Connor were especially effective in an attack that benefited hugely from Hugh Lynch's midfield industry.

It was, as Jason Ryan described it afterwards, a day to blow away the cobwebs, which Kildare achieved quite efficiently. The same did not apply to Louth, who are heading into a transition phase following the departure of Paddy Keenan, Shane Lennon and some other familiar names.

"We are under no illusions about where we stand. We had around ten guys out there who are lacking inter-county experience. We have five guys with college teams and five or six others are just coming back so we wouldn't chance them," said Kelly.

He knows that even with a full squad, he is facing a massive task to drive Louth in the direction that took them so close to the Leinster title in 2010.

"It's rebuilding time in Louth. We will all have to be patient. The days of coming to Newbridge and taking on Kildare off a weakened squad are over for now. The gulf in class was plain to see today but we'll work as hard as we can to close it," he said.

Losing players to third-level colleges - a continuing irritant for most county managers - is more damaging to smaller counties like Louth than their bigger resourced rivals but it's something they have to tolerate.

"Small counties can't sustain losing so many players but that's the way it is," said Kelly.

Despite the big defeat on opening day, he remains upbeat, explaining that everything is being geared for the start of the Division 3 campaign in four weeks' time.

"Our first six weeks have been more about squad selection than prepping for days like today. We'd like to have done better but it's behind us now and we move on to Wednesday night. We'll encourage the group to be as positive as they can. We're at the start of a journey and will look at today's game in that light, " said Kelly.

Advanced

Kildare are much more advanced in terms of squad development and will be pleased with how the new faces fitted in yesterday.

"We had nine guys that didn't start in the qualifier against Monaghan (last July). Ten fellas on the subs are new to the panel and we had four who never played for Kildare before so it was a good workout in that sense," said Ryan.

Strengthening the defence are on his 'things to do' list this year after leaking so readily last season.

"Going into last year we were conscious that we needed to score more. We worked hard on that but we conceded too much. That's an area we have to brush up on," said Ryan.

He didn't learn a whole lot on that front yesterday as the Kildare defence had all the answers against a weak Louth attack, whose problems were exacerbated by a poor supply. That chain lost a link early on when Declan Byrne was sent off on a black card after nine minutes.

It was the first of many setbacks for Louth.

Scorers: Kildare: D Mulhall 0-8 (5fs), T O'Connor 1-1, E Callaghan, E O'Flaherty (f), E Murphy, F Dowling, P O'Neill, H Lynch, P Kelly 0-1 each. Louth: R Holdcroft (3fs), R Burns 0-3 (2fs) each D Byrne 0-1.

Kildare: M Donnellan; C Fitzpatrick, P Kelly, G Farrell; C O'Donoghue, D O'Brien, E Doyle; P O'Neill, H Lynch; S McNally, E Callaghan, E O'Flaherty; D Mulhall, T O'Connor, F Dowling. Subs: W Burke for Doyle (h-t), E Murphy for O'Flaherty (h-t), D White for O'Neill (47), D Slattery for Callaghan (55), S Campbell for McNally (59), S Hanafin for Mulhall (64).

Louth: N Gallagher; K Toner, D Crilly, P Nixon; D McComish, P Rath, J Stewart; B Duffy, R Brodigan; R Moore, H McGinn, D Maguire; D Byrne, D O' Connor, R Burns. Subs: S McCann for Byrne (BC, 9), J Connolly for Nixon (30), D Finnegan for Moore (h-t), P Berrill for Stewart (44), T Durnin for Duffy (46), R Holdcroft for Maguire (61)

Referee: F Smith (Offaly).

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