Saturday, January 28, 2023

Allianz National Football League – Division 2 – Round 1



By Richard Commins

A ring-rusty and understrength Dublin held on for the narrowest of wins against a spirited Kildare in tonight’s Allianz League Division 2 opener in Croke Park.


David Hyland shows determination in breaking away from Dublin’s John Small in the Allianz NFL Division 2 Round 1 game in Croke Park on Saturday night Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

That scenario looked highly unlikely when Brian Fenton fired to the Kildare net after six minutes. It’s almost obligatory for the Lilywhites to concede early to their Metropolitan neighbours in Headquarters and you feared for them at that point.

But on this occasion, one goal didn’t become five, or even two, and although Dublin always looked winners, they were given a good run for their money from a Kildare team who put on what manager Glenn Ryan afterwards described as a “manly performance”.

With Jack Robinson the lively and elusive Clogherinkoe corner forward making a highly promising return to League football after a three-year absence and Darragh Kirwan firing over a couple of high-quality points, Kildare were only two points adrift at half-time and given that early green flag they’ll have taken that all day long.

The goal had too many echoes of last year for Ryan’s liking, unfortunately. They’d conceded the first goal after five minutes in the Leinster Final last summer and they did so at the same time on Saturday night.

Fenton started the move in his own full back line, picking up David O’Hanlon’s short kick-out and despite three Kildare men having Greg McEneaney in a seemingly vice-like grip at one stage of the passing movement, he managed to squirm the ball free. With Kildare’s defence out of shape, Dublin quickly overlapped through Eoin Murchan down the right and with men over, Seán McMahon offloaded to Fenton who finished cleanly to Mark Donnellan’s net with Kildare chasing familiar shadows.

They didn’t cave, though. The half developed into a slow-paced affair with far too much lateral play, Kildare hitting Robinson at every opportunity and Dublin not really knowing how to deal with him.  They ended the half behind by only 0-6 to 1-5 with two points each from Robinson and Kirwan and one each for Jimmy Hyland and Neil Flynn.

Kildare have often forgotten to come out for the second half in this fixture and there were shades of that initially tonight with Dublin playing a more direct game after the interval. Con O’Callaghan had been wasteful in the first half, including the spurning of a goal chance when getting in behind Mick O’Grady, his flick going wide, but he blew away a few cobwebs with two points early in the half, with Kildare grateful to Donnellan for a superb tip over on the second point.

Further points from Ross McGarry and Ciarán Kilkenny only drew one from Hyland in return and that left Kildare five points behind (1-9 to 0-7).

With little encouragement from card-happy Kerry referee Brendan Griffin who by general consensus didn’t do Kildare any favours, the Lilywhites gritted their teeth and clawed their way back into a game that became more physical and more off-the-cuff in the final quarter.

Hyland got the comeback going in the 50th minute with a score off his left foot, and when Kildare turned over O’Hanlon’s kick out, Kevin O’Callaghan seemed out of options in the left corner but spotted his Celbridge clubmate Tony Archbold unmarked just outside the penalty area.

Archbold didn’t do a lot wrong, keeping his shot low but O’Hanlon managed to get something on it and it bounced back off the post. Small margins but where Dublin took their goal chance, Kildare had spurned theirs.

To their credit, they continued battling. Robinson and Cormac Costello exchanged points before minors from Kirwan and Flynn (’45) left two between them with eight minutes left.

Dean Rock and Flynn exchanged points from frees and with the game stretched Dublin hit Kildare a number of times on the break but were uncharacteristically wasteful. That kept Ryan’s side interested and four minutes into injury time Flynn’s beautifully struck ’45 narrowed the gap to a point.

It wasn’t to be, though, Dublin breathing a sigh of relief when Griffin blew the long whistle.

DUBLIN: David O’Hanlon; Eoin Murchan, Seán McMahon, Michael Fitzsimons; Lee Gannon, John Small 0-1, Cian Murphy; Brian Fenton 1-0, Tom Lahiff; Niall Scully 0-1, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-1, Greg McEneaney; Cormac Costello 0-4 (3fs), Ross McGarry 0-1, Con O’Callaghan 0-2. Subs: David Byrne for Murchan HT, Colm Basquel for McGarry 47, Dean Rock 0-1 (f) for McEneaney 56, Killian O’Gara for Costello 67, Peadar Ó Cofaigh Byrne for Lahiff 71.

KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Mick O’Grady, Shea Ryan, Ryan Houlihan; Darragh Malone, David Hyland, Paddy McDermott; Aaron Masterson, Kevin O’Callaghan; Neil Flynn 0-4 (1f 2x45s), Kevin Flynn, Paul Cribbin; Jimmy Hyland 0-3 (1f), Darragh Kirwan 0-3 (1f), Jack Robinson 0-3. Subs: Paddy Woodgate for J Hyland (blood 30-HT), Alex Beirne for Cribbin 46, Tony Archbold for Malone 46, Ben McCormack for J Hyland 59, Kevin Feely for Masterson 60, Jack Sargent for Houlihan 72.

Referee: Brendan Griffin (Kerry)

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