Tuesday 25 June 2019

'The future is looking good' - Kildare seal Under-20 All Ireland title with victory over Mayo

Kildare 1-18 Mayo 1-16

Kildare players and backroom staff celebrate with the cup
Kildare players and backroom staff celebrate with the cup

Niall Scully

THE Kildare and Mayo folk ambled up past Barry's Hotel. They were hoping that the only sweeper they'd see would be working for the Corpo.

There wasn't a breath in the city. And the first-ever Eirgrid Under-20 Football final was like a breath of fresh air.

You could have played marbles on the Croke Park pitch. And it's wide surface suited the expansive style of both teams.

Both sides packed adventure in the kit bags. And plenty of it.

Enjoying the action was the Eirgrid chief and noted tennis player, Mark Foley. The hour didn't lack electricity.

It was Kildare's first All-Ireland title in any grade since 1965. Long before Joxer went to Stuttgart.

The man who led them to the Promised Land, Davy Burke, was once part of Greg McGonigle’s management ticket with the Dublin lady footballers.

He says this group can herald in brighter days for the Lillywhites. "The future is looking good. Many of this squad will become seniors in the next couple of years," remarked Davy.

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Jimmy Hyland is already beginning to fit into the boots of Johnny Doyle. He had a stormer under the scorching Croke Park sun.

Left foot or right, it didn't matter. He struck a cluster of gems. Each one coated with Newbridge silver.

When he scored 1-8 against Kerry in the semi-final, the main concern of his Dad was that he'd be up early to turn the turf the following morning!

Maybe, on this historic Bank Holiday Monday down on the Curragh, Jimmy will get the day off.

"It was a real tough game," reflected Jimmy. "And it was such a terrific team performance.

"Everybody worked so hard. The defence put in some great tackles. And we got brilliant ball into the forward line. You are only as good as the ball that comes in."

Jimmy went to work quickly yesterday as Kildare attacked the Hill 16 end. And the Dubs that arrived early joined in in the applause.

There was just seven minutes on the watch when Brian McLoughlin showed composure to guide in the opening goal for Kildare.

Sadly for Mayo, their right corner-back, Johnny Maughan, had to leave the field injured after just nine minutes. He's the son of the former Mayo senior manager, John Maughan.

Ross Egan, the man in the white boots, was keeping the Mayo clock ticking. And on 22 minutes, Mayo had a goal of their own.

It came from their captain, Ryan O'Donoghue, a schoolboy soccer international who was once on the books of Sligo Rovers.

He sped away from the traffic, sold a little dummy before he thundered the ball to the sack.

Kildare led at the break, 1-13 to 1-9. Four unanswered points from Hyland gave them a six-point lead with 15 minutes left.

Another Egan free reduced the deficit. And then Egan got clear on goal. He looked certain to score. But Aaron O'Neill made a crucial save. The save-of-the-match.     

Still, Mayo kept coming. That renowned Western spirit never fails them. Goalkeeper, Patrick O’Malley, converted a 45. Egan added a point.

Hyland replied for Kildare, but in injury-time, O’Donoghue's point brought it back to a goal.

Mayo won a late, close-in free. O'Donoghue had to go for gold.  But it was deflected over the bar.

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