Kildare 1-11 -
NOT for the first time this season, Kildare defied a stuttering performance to take the spoils.
The victims were Mayo as the visiting Lilies recorded their fourth victory of the league campaign but the home side were largely responsible for their own downfall. 14 wides allied to another four missed chances left them reeling at the finish. As against Kerry in round three, Kildare profited from their opponent’s wastefulness.
For the first 20 minutes it seemed like the men in white had walked into another hiding. Having been humbled by Dublin in Croke Park six days earlier, they were still staring into the abyss after 19 minutes in Castlebar. Mayo led 0-6 to no score and Kildare seemed powerless to prevent the onslaught.
It took until the 20th minute for Niall Kelly to open their account but with almost half an hour played Mayo had taken control without having to leave their comfort zone. And maybe that was part of the reason for the dramatic turnaround before half-time. Mayo were cruising and having watched their opponents kick every one of their first five shots wide, perhaps they had subconsciously switched off.
For the last ten minutes of the first half, it was like Kildare had hit the reset button. They were playing a new game and hit the target every time they attacked. Mayo momentarily collapsed and failed to score for 15 minutes.
Kildare’s rich run began with a Seanie Johnston point in the 26th minute but it really gathered momentum when Johnston set the play in motion for Eoin Doyle’s goal on the half-hour mark. Thinking quickly after Mayo protested a free at midfield, Johnston found space on the 45 where he held the ball long enough to release John Doyle beyond an isolated Mayo defender. Doyle’s burst took him within scoring range but Eoin Doyle had already sprinted into position for a goal although his finish was more panicked than it should have been. With only the keeper to beat, the Naas man hurriedly palmed the ball towards goal and only that David Clarke was halfway towards the bottom corner, he might well have been able to make the save. As it was, Clarke got a hand to the ball but couldn’t prevent it trickling over the line.
Inspired by his rare score, Eoin Doyle exploded from midfield after winning the next kickout and his run led to a second point for Johnston, who ensured that Kildare took a scarcely deserved 1-5 to 0-7 lead at the break with a free in the 34th minute.
Whatever effect that mini-revival had on Kildare, their resurgence certainly unsettled Mayo. Having played a fast, fluent game in the opening quarter they looked uncertain after half-time. Their scoring rate halved while their wides mounted. Kildare were solid yet unspectacular and simply picked off their points with greater economy.
Midway through the second half, Doyle’s first half goal separated the sides when two of the under-21 stars, Paddy Brophy and Niall Kelly, hit successive points. Kelly’s 54th minute effort – his second point of the game – was a telling score as he played a neat one-two with Brophy before finishing in style from a difficult position on the right. It was the work of two confident, young men.
Still there was plenty of time and opportunities for Mayo to alter the outcome. By now they had wasted six chances, including two frees, but they managed two points in as many minutes to get right back in contention. A brilliant score from centre-back Tom Cunniffe should have reignited them but Kildare fanned the flames and coolly hit back with a fisted point from sub Fionn Dowling.
Mayo missed two more frees before the finish as their attack went to pieces, ending the second half with just one score from play. Two late frees from Cillian O’Connor twice brought them within one but Eoghan O’Flaherty hit a spectacular score from the right to give Kildare breathing space before the final whistle ended Mayo’s chances of a revival.
The game ended with the home side in slight disbelief that they had ended up on the losing side. Kildare knew they had been lucky but they had been plucky in the second half and showed serious character to get back into contention before half-time. Mayo never fully recovered from that scoring blitz by Kildare and only managed to level the game once, briefly in the 38th minute, after that.
Another two points in the bag leaves Kieran McGeeney’s side on the brink of a semi-final spot and victory at home to fellow table-toppers Tyrone this Sunday will secure their place in the final four.
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Ollie Lyons, Michael Foley, Hugh McGrillen; Emmet Bolton, Peter Kelly, Eoin Doyle 1-0; Hugh Lynch, Padraig O’Neill; Daniel Flynn 0-1, Niall Kelly 0-2, Morgan O’Flaherty; Seanie Johnston 0-4 (1f), Paddy Brophy 0-1, John Doyle 0-1f. Subs: Fionn Dowling 0-1 for Doyle, 53; David Hyland for Bolton, 55; Eoghan O’Flaherty 0-1 for M O’Flaherty, 62; Tomas O’Connor for Johnston, 70.
MAYO: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan, Tom Cunniffe 0-1, Colm Boyle 0-2; Barry Moran, Seamus O’Shea; Kevin McLoughlin 0-1f, Aidan O’Shea, Cathal Carolan 0-2; Evan Regan 0-3 (2fs), Jason Dohertyy 0-1f, Michael Conroy 0-1. Subs: Cillian O’Connor for 0-2fs for Regan, 54; Richie Feeney for Carolan, 57; Enda Varley for Conroy, 60; Jason Gibbons for A O’Shea, 64.
REF: Martin Higgins (Fermanagh)