Allianz National Football League – Division 2 – Round 5
By Richard Commins
Kildare’s fragile confidence took another battering as a dreadful National Football League campaign hit a new low in Ardee this afternoon, leaving Glenn Ryan’s team in a four-way fight for survival in Division 2.
Opponents Louth made it three wins in a row, surely enough now to secure their place in Division 2 for 2024, and fully deserved their success, which overturned a sixteen-point defeat to the same opposition in last year’s Championship.
Without being brilliant, Mickey Harte’s side created a couple of well-taken goals, which proved crucial, and they appeared better organized defensively than a Kildare side who continue to struggle at both ends of the field.
Ryan surprisingly left Kevin Flynn, arguably their most consistent performer of the last few years, out of the starting fifteen but had to re-instate the Celbridge man minutes before throw-in when Ryan Houlihan appeared to aggravate the hamstring injury that saw him miss the Derry game. Jimmy Hyland was also hamstrung and didn’t make the match-day 26.
That unplanned defensive re-arrangement didn’t help Kildare but offers little excuse for an opening quarter in which Louth were by far the better team, a superiority they translated quickly onto the scoreboard.
Kildare’s handling and distribution was poor all afternoon and when Paddy McDermott dropped a Mark Donnellan kick-out in the eighth minute it directly led to Tommy Durnin finishing to the net.
Kildare took ten minutes to manage a kick at the posts, Darragh Kirwan floating over a fine score from 35 metres, but the goal remained the difference between the teams until two points just before the half-hour mark from a Paddy Woodgate free and Ben McCormack brought the gap to two points with the Lilywhites beginning to get something of a foothold.
Kildare would have been happy to go into the break only a point or two down you suspected but the counter-attacking Louth side grabbed a crucial second goal in injury time when Liam Johnson put Conor Grimes in for a neat finish to Donnellan’s right. That made it 2-6 to 0-7 at half-time.
The away side lost Kevin Feely to injury at half-time but early scores from Kirwan and Woodgate suggested all was not lost and in fairness Kildare didn’t lack for effort in the second half.
Their basic skills let them down though time and again. Louth could afford to sit back and remain compact, and Kildare regularly ran into brick walls, over-carried, or saw simple passes with hand or foot go astray. All signs of a lack of confidence and something that must have been particularly frustrating for Ryan having spent the week working on “the basics” in Hawkfield.
Those faults allowed Louth to keep the wolf from the door comfortably enough, outscoring Kildare five to three for the remainder of the game, with Kildare never really threatening to find the goal that has eluded them in league football for over a year now.
They did manage to bring the gap down to a single score at 2-9 to 0-12 when Daniel Flynn pointed in the 64th minute but Louth registered the last two fisted scores from substitutes Craig Lennon and Bevan Duffy to raucous applause from home supporters in a capacity 2,500 crowd.
Results elsewhere gave Kildare a lifeline if they can find their winning touch in Limerick and against Meath at St Conleth’s Park but Ryan acknowledged that their opponents would be looking at Kildare as “soft touches”.
“Why wouldn’t they be? We have a lot of looking we need to do at ourselves before we look at anyone else,” acknowledged the under-pressure Kildare manager.
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Mick O’Grady, Shea Ryan, Jack Sargent 0-1; David Hyland, Kevin Flynn, Paddy McDermott; Kevin Feely, Kevin O’Callaghan; Eoin Doyle, Ben McCormack 0-1, Neil Flynn 0-3 (2fs), Paddy Woodgate 0-3 (2fs), Daniel Flynn 0-1, Darragh Kirwan 0-2.
Subs: Aaron Masterson for Feely HT, Mike Joyce for McDermott HT, Cein McMonagle for McCormack 47, Jack Robinson for Kirwan 54, Barry Coffey 0-1 for N Flynn 62.
LOUTH: James Califf; Niall Sharkey 0-1, Peter Lynch, Donal McKenny; Leonard Grey, Ciaran Murphy, Ryan Burns; Conor Earley, Conor Grimes 1-0; Liam Jackson, Ciaran Downey 0-1, Tommy Durnin 1-2; Conal McKeever; Sam Mulroy 0-2 (2fs), Daire McConnon 0-2 (1f 1m).
Subs: Bevan Duffy 0-1 for Grimes (temp 6-13), Craig Lennon 0-1 for Mulroy 28, Craig Lennon 0-1 for Mulroy, Conal McCaul for Burns 57, Duffy for Jackson 61, Jay Hughes for McConnon 67.
REFEREE: Barry Tiernan (Dublin).