All Ireland Championships – Group 3 – Round 1
By Richard Commins
A Kildare team that started lethargically before eventually getting their noses three points in front down the finishing straight managed, through a combination of ill-discipline and carelessness, to allow Division 4 League winners Sligo to earn a dramatic draw in this afternoon’s All Ireland Senior Football Championship Group 3 opener in Markievicz Park.
That’s not to take away from a Yeats County team who fully deserved their share of the spoils. They went toe-to-toe with Kildare through an even first half and flew out of the traps early in the second half to open up a two-point lead, before a powerful burst from their Division 2 opponents appeared to have secured the victory when they opened up that three-point lead late on.
Sligo had the best two forwards on show in Seán Carrabine and Niall Murphy but when Carrabine saw the line for a second yellow card three minutes from the end of normal time and substitute Jack Robinson’s subsequent free crept over the bar to make it 0-14 to 0-11, Sligo’s race appeared to be run.
Whether complacency had a role to play in Kildare’s subsequent collapse is hard to tell, but they only had themselves to blame. After Murphy cleverly took a free-kick short to Mikey Gordon, took the return and fired over from close range, five minutes of additional time was signalled, and Sligo felt they could close the two-point gap.
Kildare seemed to panic, disappointingly. Kevin O’Callaghan swung Pat Spillane to the ground to earn himself a black card and shortly afterwards, three minutes into injury time, Murphy stood up to the plate once more for Sligo, driving over a monster point from long range.
Sligo might have thought their chance had gone when Spillane’s shot tailed just to the left of the posts, but Kildare too would be left to rue a miss from Alex Beirne in the right corner, one of nine wides from Glenn Ryan’s men.
There was already six minutes of injury time played at that stage, but Darragh Kirwan picked up a second yellow card to join O’Callaghan on the sideline and from the resultant free, Sligo fashioned their equaliser.
They managed to work the ball from the left sideline over to the right wing and substitute David Quinn can hardly have believed the time and space he had to split the posts with what turned out to be the last kick of the game.
On a grey, overcast day in the picturesque setting, Kildare, who deployed Kevin Feely at full-forward as an indirect replacement for the injured Ben McCormack, had an early let-off when Sligo’s late replacement Alan Reilly was put through by Carrabine, but he blazed his low effort wide.
The game settled into a rhythm of sorts, with the sides exchanging points right through the first half and only at one point did either side move two points clear. That came when Kevin Flynn from 45 metres out and Darragh Kirwan registered two points in succession just after the half-hour mark and put the Lilywhites ahead by 0-7 to 0-5.
By half-time Sligo had pulled the gap back to 7-6 and three points in a chaotic opening to the second half, two from the classy Carrabine, saw them take the lead.
Kildare, though, shot four of the next five points as Sligo appeared to be running out of steam, with Paddy Woodgate’s ’45 and a 47-metre free helping to turn the tide in the visitors’ favour. Carrabine, though, levelled matters after 57 minutes before three in a row from Aaron Masterson, Kirwan and Robinson gave the Lilywhites a platform.
Unfortunately, it was one they fell off, with the home side’s strong finish deservedly earning them a point that could be crucial come the end of the Round Robin stage of the new-look All Ireland.
SLIGO: Aidan Devaney; Evan Lyons, Eddie McGuinness, Nathan Mullen; Paul McNamara, Brian Cox, Luke Towey; Cian Lally, Paul Kilcoyne; Finnian Cawley 0-2, Sean Carrabine 0-4, Darragh Cummins 0-1; Alan Reilly, Patrick O Connor, Niall Murphy 0-6 (2fs). SUBS: Pat Spillane for O’Connor 55, Mikey Gordon for Cawley 61, Keelan Cawley for Cummins 65, David Quinn 0-1 for Lally 65, Mark Walsh for Reilly 70+4.
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Mick O’Grady, Shea Ryan, Eoin Doyle; David Hyland, Kevin Flynn 0-2, Jack Sargent; Kevin O’Callaghan, Aaron Masterson 0-1; Paddy McDermott, Paul Cribbin, Alex Beirne 0-2; Darragh Kirwan 0-3, Kevin Feely 0-1 (m), Paddy Woodgate 0-4 (2fs, 1×45). SUBS: Jack Robinson 0-1 (f) for Feely 45, Darragh Malone for Cribbin 53, Tony Archbold for McDermott 58, Ryan Houlihan for Sargent 70.
REFEREE: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)