Leinster SFC Quarter-Final
KILDARE 0-20 OFFALY 0-16
By Kevin Egan at MW Hire O’Moore Park
Kildare were never behind but also never comfortable as they edged out Offaly in an open and enjoyable Leinster championship quarter-final clash in Portlaoise this evening, eventually prevailing thanks to three late scores from Neil Flynn, who was introduced in the final quarter.
Kildare will feel that they could have been much further ahead all along, having shot 14 wides to Offaly’s three, but the Faithful men will balance that by saying that they had the only goal chances in the game, failing to convert any of the three opportunities that fell their way in front of Mark Donnellan’s goal.
This game was also the story of two talented young inside forwards proving that they have a hugely bright future in the game, as Darragh Kirwan and Cian Farrell had hugely impressive performances, Kirwan in his first ever senior championship start for the short grass county, while Farrell made his championship debut just a week previously against Carlow.
Kirwan had his first score after just 20 seconds, only to see Bernard Allen finish off a great team move at the other end of the field to tie the game up. Kildare had plenty of pace and strength in close to goal, with Paddy Brophy and Jimmy Hyland also registering early scores, and they certainly had plenty of possession to work with too as Kevin Feely and Aaron Masterson (another championship debutant) established a strong foothold in midfield.
Jack O’Connor’s faith in new blood was rewarded in every sector as Shea Ryan was a colossus at full back, getting the better of his personal battle with Offaly talisman Niall McNamee.
Kildare had no answer to Cian Farrell however, the IT Carlow student raising his game to meet the challenge of the county just across the border from his Edenderry home. He rattled over two excellent early points to keep Offaly in touch while the Kildare wides tally started to mount, though he’ll feel that he missed a trick when Peter Cunningham played him in on goal and his low shot was blocked by Shea Ryan.
Time and again Kildare moved two or three points clear, only for Offaly to eke their way back into contention. 0-10 to 0-9 at half time become 0-12 to 0-10, and eventually 0-15 to 0-11 by the second half water break, but Offaly rallied again with a string of scores and when goalkeeper Paddy Dunican curled over a free, the gap was down to a single point.
The killer blow the underdogs needed never came however. Bernard Allen jinked his way through on goal but couldn’t beat Mark Donnellan with his low shot, while wing back Colm Doyle found himself through on goal but he failed to find a way past the Kildare keeper, charging straight into him and conceding a free out.
Eventually, Kildare’s greater strength in depth on the bench proved crucial. Neil Flynn’s three scores may have all been dead balls, but there was one from each sideline and another from 45 metres out, all the type of kick that his colleagues had been failing to convert over the course of the game. It wasn’t enough to dispel the question marks surrounding Kildare’s wellbeing in advance of what’s sure to be a ferocious contest against Meath next Sunday, but it was enough to make sure they didn’t trip over this quarter-final hurdle before even getting there.
Scorers for Kildare: Darragh Kirwan 0-6 (1m), Neil Flynn 0-3 (2fs, 1m), Paddy Brophy, Jimmy Hyland (1f) and Ben McCormack 0-2 each, Daniel Flynn, Darragh Malone, Fergal Conway, Aaron Masterson and Paul Cribbin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Cian Farrell 0-7 (2fs, 245s), Niall McNamee 0-3 (3fs), Rúairí McNamee 0-2, Bernard Allen, Joseph O’Connor, Paddy Dunican (f) and Anton Sullivan 0-1 each.
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Mark Dempsey, Shea Ryan, Kevin Flynn; Darragh Malone, Con Kavanagh, David Hyland; Kevin Feely, Aaron Masterson; Fergal Conway, Ben McCormack, Paddy Brophy; Darragh Kirwan, Daniel Flynn, Jimmy Hyland.
Subs: Mattie Byrne for Conway (half-time), Paul Cribbin for Daniel Flynn (42), Neil Flynn for McCormack (55), Luke Flynn for Masterson (60), Eoin Doyle for Kevin Flynn (68).
OFFALY: Paddy Dunican; Eoin Rigney, Declan Hogan, Niall Darby; Eoin Carroll, Johnny Moloney, Colm Doyle; Jordan Hayes, Cathal Mangan; Anton Sullivan, Ruairí McNamee, Peter Cunningham; Cian Farrell, Niall McNamee, Bernard Allen.
Subs: Joseph O’Connor for Hayes (27), Rory Egan for Cunningham (56), Carl Stewart for Mangan (66), Conor McNamee for Rúairí McNamee (68), Aaron Leavy for Allen (70).
REFEREE: David Coldrick (Meath).