By Daire Walsh
KILDARE produced an outstanding second half showing at MacHale Park, Castlebar this afternoon to claim the National Hurling League Division 2B crown.
Trailing Mayo by five points at the break (1-14 to 1-9), David Herity’s side subsequently turned the game on its head to complete an unbeaten march to the third-tier title.
The Lilywhites had started brightly with back-to-back points from David Slattery and Paul Divilly, before Mayo forced their way into the contest. Galvanised by a Sean Regan goal on eight minutes, Derek Walsh’s westerners brought a 1-7 to 0-4 lead into the first half water break.
The hosts continued to push on in the second-quarter but even though Jack Sheridan had a penalty saved by Bobby Douglas on the half-hour mark, Kildare finally rattled the net through Slattery deep into stoppage-time.
With a sizeable wind at their disposal, the Lilies registered seven points in succession on the resumption – including four from play by the outstanding James Burke.
Mayo skipper Keith Higgins finally interrupted this scoring sequence with a successful free, only for Kevin Whelan and Sheridan scores to give Kildare a 1-18 to 1-15 lead midway through the half.
Despite stubborn resistance from Mayo, the Lilies remained in the driving seat and Conor Dowling’s three-pointer in the dying moments placed the outcome beyond all doubt. This puts Kildare in an ideal frame of mind ahead of their forthcoming Joe McDonagh Cup campaign.
KILDARE: Paddy McKenna; Cathal Derivan, Rian Boran, Simon Leacy; Kevin Whelan 0-1, Declan Flaherty, Sean Christanseen; Kevin Aherne, Paul Divilly 0-1; Cathal McCabe, Johnny Byrne 0-2, James Burke 0-5; Brian Byrne, Jack Sheridan 0-10, 6 frees, 2 sidelines, David Slattery 1-2. Subs: Jack Travers for Christanseen (27), Conor Dowling 1-1 for McCabe (half-time), Shane Ryan 0-2 for Slattery, Tadhg Forde for Aherne (both 60), Cathal Dowling for Divilly (66), Mark Delaney for J Byrne (66-68, blood sub), Delaney for Burke (74).
MAYO: Bobby Douglas; Daniel Huane, Conor Daly, Corey Scahill 0-1; Gary Nolan, Pearse McCrann 0-1, David Kenny; John Cassidy 0-1, Sean Kenny; Adrian Phillips 0-1, Cathal Freeman 0-3, 1 free, Sean Regan 1-3; Oisin Greally, Keith Higgins 0-8, 8 frees, Shane Boland 0-1. Subs: Conor Henry for Daly (7), Brian Hunt for Scahill, Kieran Kiely for Phillips (both 46), Brian Morley for Boland (59), Conor Murray for Kenny (66).
REFEREE: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary).