Lilies rise to the occasion as Exiles wilt
Christy Ring Cup final: Kildare 3-19 London 1-11
The Christy Ring Cup made the short journey from Croke Park across the county border into Kildare after the Lilywhites gave an assured performance to sweep London aside in a 14-point victory.
Brian Byrne was one of the star players for Joe Quaid's team on a day when all seemed to go to plan, something Byrne himself admits hasn't been the story of their year.
"It's funny how it works. The League wasn't what we expected - we weren't sharp enough and we got a bit of a telling to - but full credit to the lads, they've put their heads down and I'm delighted we've reaped the rewards," he said.
The Kildare captain was pleased with some aspects of their performance that bode well for their upcoming promotion clash with Antrim.
"Not so much that it killed us in other games but it's put us against the wall, we haven't started extremely quick, but with the two weeks off we were really able to focus in and set up what we were going to do," he said.
"We started well today, we got the first score and we kept tipping away. It was nice for Jack (Sheridan) to get the goal just before half-time. They did get a few scores but it's something the team have done all year - never panicked no matter what has been thrown at us."
That opening half, where London managed to stay neck and neck for long spells, turned on Sheridan's 34th-minute goal.
As well as that concession, London were reduced to 14 at the same time as Lee Murphy received his marching orders before the ball could be pucked back into play. Suddenly, in the space of first-half injury time, a one-point game had become a six-point game and a man advantage.
After the break, it continued in the same manner for both teams with James Burke, in particular, shining once more, so much so that he received the largest cheer of the day as he made his way to the line nine minutes before the end with 0-8 to his name.
Despite Kildare being reduced to 14 in the 56th minute, there was no way back for the Exiles. The best they could muster was a consolation goal from Colin Nelson.
Byrne was quick to highlight the strange nature of finals and how it can affect different teams and players but complimented the mentality of his team-mates both before and during the game.
"We said at half-time, psychologically we could drop and play 15 against 14 but it was up to the lads to keep it 15 against 15 and they did that incredibly well," he said.
"Finals are going to be weird, lads can get built up to it and they mightn't play to their full expectation. It's a surreal kind of atmosphere but I'm absolutely delighted for the people in that dressing-room."
It was the opposite feeling for London manager Fergus McMahon, whose side failed to perform in the GAA's biggest arena.
"Only one team brought their A game and unfortunately, we left ours in London or the semi-final, I don't know. It's hard to pin-point when you don't show and you're beaten," he said.
"We weren't hurling with any fluidity, we were throwing balls away, we were giving hand-passes. We looked fidgety or something, I don't know what it was; Croke Park will affect some players but it seemed to affect several of ours."
Antrim await Kildare next weekend with a place in the Joe McDonagh Cup awaiting the winners.
Scorers - Kildare: J Sheridan 2-2, J Burke 0-8 (3fs), S Ryan 1-0, P Divilly 0-3, E O'Neill 0-2, K Whelan, B Byrne, M Fitzgerald, M Delaney (f) 0-1 each. London: A Sheehan 0-6 (5fs), C Nelson 1-0, K O'Loughlin 0-2fs, S Lawless, J Troy, D O'Regan 0-1 each.
Kildare - P McKenna 7; C Forde 7, J Doran 7, P Sullivan 6; E O'Neill 8, M Moloney 7, M Grace 6; N O Muineachain 7, B Byrne 7; J Burke 9, P Divilly 8, K Whelan 7; S Ryan 7, M Fitzgerald 6, J Sheridan 8. Subs: M Delaney 7 for Ryan (50), B Deay 7 for Whelan (55), M Purcell 6 for J Burke (61) P Dermody for McKenna (70), B Cormack for Fitzgerald (70).
London - J Barrett 7; L Murphy 5, B Regan 6, D O'Regan 7; C McAlinden 6, K Reid 6, C Burke 6; F Collins 7, M Dwyer 6; H Vaughan 6, C Nelson 7, S Conlon 6; M Duggan 6, S Lawless 7, A Sheehan 7. Subs: K O'Loughlin 7 for Vaughan (25), O Gately 6 for S Conlon (h/t), D Moore 6 for Reid (44), J Troy 7 for Sheehan (46), R Murphy 6 for Duggan (56).
Ref - P Murphy (Carlow)