SAME roles, different team. Given their good form in the National League perhaps it was no surprise that two of Kildare’s most influential performers in Wednesday night’s under-21 championship opener were Daniel Flynn and Niall Kelly.
It was as if both men were in command of different sectors of the field: Flynn took charge between the 45s while Kelly took over whenever the play advanced into Meath territory. It was a lethal combination and Meath felt the full effect when Kelly netted in the 25th minute. Flynn had created it for him with a blistering solo run that tore through the heart of the Meath defence.
It was Flynn’s sixth solo run of the night and he’d already set up up Paddy Brophy for a point earlier in the half. As with the seniors, his ball-carrying ability was used to great effect and once he made a break, he was content to hand-pass the ball to a man in a better position.
Kelly, by contrast, used his feet more than his hands to pass the ball. He had 15 possessions in the first half and only hand-passed the ball three times. With his two shots he scored 1-1, a crucial return during a half in which Kildare struggled to get scores.
He changed his approach in the second half, operating a little deeper and linking the play with shorter hand-passes but the effect was much the same. He took two shots, scored a point with his first and it took a fine save to stop him adding a second goal from the second. In any event Padraig Fogarty mopped up the rebound, which meant Kelly had played a major part in 2-3 of Kildare’s 2-15 total.
Flynn, likewise, played deeper after half-time and made three interceptions in the right corner which he made his own as he covered the space down that channel in front of the Kildare full-back line. He had two chances to score in the second half but his first effort went wide and his second shot was blocked. He varied his game a lot more in the second half, kicking the ball as often as he handed it off and made a telling contribution with five successful foot-passes.
Both men were taken off before the finish when the game was won and with a combined 53 plays (Kelly had 27, Flynn 26) it was easy to understand the urge to try and rest them. If Laois are going to stop Kildare in the semi-final, they’ll have to stop Flynn and Kelly first.