NFL Div 1:
By Robert Cox at St. Conleths Park
Kerry goals sink Kildare further into relegation battle.
Goals in either half from Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue proved to be Kildare’s undoing as they lost for the fourth game in a row against an impressive Kerry side in this basement battle at Newbridge on Sunday (16th March).
Still smarting from last week’s heavy defeat to Dublin, Jason Ryan’s men came up against a Kerry side revitalised by last Sunday’s rout of Tyrone and to be fair The Kingdom were more comfortable winners than the score line suggests as they eased their relegation worries and left Kildare as clear favourites to join Westmeath – who mathematically aren’t yet relegated in Division 2 next year.
Kildare showed one late change to the starting line up with Fergal Conway replacing David Hyland at corner back, with the latter originally pencilled in to replace Celbridge man Hugh McGrillen.
Just as they had done in their last home game against Tyrone, Kildare came flying out of the blocks with points from Paddy Brophy, Eoghan O’Flaherty and Cathal McNally easing them into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead. Celbridge man Brophy’s was particularly impressive as he split the posts from out under the stands off his right foot after taking a pass from Darroch Mulhall.
But Kerry eventually settled as scores from James O’Donoghue, Bryan Sheehan, Paul Geaney, Daithi Casey and Stephen O’Brien saw them overhaul the home side before the industrious Brophy nicked another brace off the experienced Marc O Se to level proceedings at the end of a rip-roaring first quarter.
At this stage the Kildare full back line were struggling to deal with the pace of O’Donoghue and O’Brien and the pair both pointed along with Sheehan to make it 0-8 to 0-5 before O’Donoghue set up Geaney for the opening goal on 26 minutes. The number fifteen beat Mick O’Grady along the endline before pulling the ball back for recent Sigerson Cup winner Geaney to palm to an empty net.
When wing forward Casey pointed it a minute later it had the Munster men on a run of 1-03 without reply, much to annoyance of Kildare supremo Ryan, who at this stage was becoming increasingly animated on the sideline.
O’Flaherty and Darroch Mulhall replied for the Lilywhites, both after some fine build up play from Tomás O’Connor who was having a great personal battle with Mark Griffin on the edge of the square. But Paul Murphy’s point had the visitors perched on a 1-10 to 0-9 interval lead.
Daithi Casey extended the Munster champions’ advantage four minutes after the re-start before O’Donoghue and Padraig Fogarty both had efforts cleared off the line at either end. Fogarty who replaced Paul Cribbin at the break saw his low shot excellently saved by Brian Kelly in the Kerry goal before Griffin blocked his second goal-bound effort on the line.
Fogarty did hit a fine left-footed point to leave four in it again, 0-10 to 1-11, after 41 minutes, but Kerry stepped it up again with three in a-row from Casey and O’Donoghue (two).
Cathal McNally and centre back Kevin Murnaghan hit back for Jason Ryan’s men, but the game was ended as a contest with a quarter of an hour to go when O’Donoghue finally raised a green flag after two earlier misses. The lethal corner forward who has stepped up to the plate in the absence of Colm Cooper, turned on a sixpence, leaving O’Grady in his wake before firing low and hard to Shane Connolly’s right hand side.
Kerry cruised to victory after that, springing Darren O’Sullivan, Kieran O’Leary, Aidan O’Mahony, Barry John Keane and Johnny Buckley from their star-studded bench in the final straight.
Kildare lost their shape as they had to go and chase the game and persisted with the long ball tactic into O’Connor, to no avail. The introduction of Pádraig O’Neill and Mikey Conway did liven up things in the final quarter but Kerry kept them at bay and ran out eventual six point winners on a final score line of 2-15 to 0-15.
The sight of John Doyle readying himself to come on will have given the large home support some optimism for the near future but his return will have to wait another week as Ryan opted for O’Neill to replace Fogarty, who himself only lasted fifteen minutes as a substitute.
Kildare: Shane Connolly; Mick O’Grady, Mick Foley, Kevin Murnaghan (0-01); Paul Cribbin (0-01), Fergal Conway, Keith Cribbin; Tommy Moolick, Gary White; Cathal McNally (0-01), Eoghan O’Flaherty (0-02, 1f), Seán Hurley (0-02), Darroch Mulhall (0-02), Tomás O’Connor (0-01), Paddy Brophy (0-03).
Subs: Pádraig Fogarty (0-01) for Paul Cribbin, David Hyland for Keith Cribbin, James Gately for McNally, Pádraig O’Neill for Fogarty, Mikey Conway (0-01) for White, Hugh McGrillen for O’Flaherty.
Kerry: Brian Kelly, Marc O’Se, Mark Griffin, Shane Enright, Peter Crowley, Fionn Fitzgerald, Paul Murphy (0-01), Anthony Maher, David Moran, Donnchadh Walsh, Bryan Sheehan (0-02, 2f), Daithí Casey (0-03), Stephen O’Brien (0-02), Paul Geaney (1-01), James O’Donoghue (1-05, 1f).
Subs: Kieran O’Leary for Walsh, Jonathan Lyne (0-01) for Casey, Barry John Keane for Geaney, Johnny Buckley for Sheehan, Darren O’Sullivan for O’Brien, Aidan O’Mahony for Enright
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).