By Robert Cribbin
Kildare exited the O’Byrne Cup at the group stages after Westmeath powered to a six point victory at their expense on Sunday afternoon.
Kildare only needed a draw to advance but they never came close to achieving that with only three players getting on the scoresheet in an out of sorts performance.
The turning point of the contest came in the opening half when Paschal Connell received his marching orders on two yellow cards but the Lillywhites never really got going in truth and Westmeath ran out deserved winners.
A Joe Halligan goal for the hosts in the opening seconds of the second half set Jack Cooney’s men up for the success as Kildare struggled to get their attacking game into vogue with a brace of scores from Neil Flynn their scant reply.
David Slattery did manage to give Kildare a half-time lead with a well taken goal but Westmeath’s extra numbers eventually told as they set up a last four clash with midlands rivals Longford.
Kildare opened up brightly with Fionn Dowling kicking a point directly from the throw-in with a lovely placed shot going between the posts.
Westmeath soon replied though with a Ger Egan free added to by a score from Ronan O’Toole as the Kildare defence was caught out by a quickly taken free.
The teams then shared efforts with a pair of Neil Flynn points being cancelled out by Egan and David Lynch as Westmeath held a narrow one point advantage.
Kildare soon regained the lead however as Fionn Dowling kicked the ball in towards the Westmeath square and while his shot dropped short, Neil Flynn was able to distract Kevin Fagan enough for his attempted punched clearance to land straight to David Slattery and the Confey man made no mistake in finding the net.
Flynn followed up with a couple of points but Egan was able to reply in kind before Paschal Connell received a red card on a second bookable offence after colliding with Sean Flanagan directly in front of the referee.
Kieran Martin then completed the scoring for the half with a well taken free as Kildare held on to a narrow 1-5 to 0-7 lead.
Being a man down Kildare would have wanted to start the second period well but the opposite occurred as Mark Barrett gave away possession in a dangerous position to Joe Halligan and despite the best efforts of Mark Dempsey the corner forward burst forward before being able to find the net.
Egan and Ronan O’Toole quickly added on further points and in the blink of an eye Westmeath had opened up a four point lead.
Kildare had enough of the ball to stay in touch but apart from Neil Flynn the attack was pretty toothless as they struggled to find a way around the experienced James Dolan who was deployed as the spare man.
Flynn did kick a lovely point in the 47th minute after he jinked his way inside but the joy was short lived as a couple of missed chances by substitute Eoghan O’Flaherty were punished by Egan and Noel O’Reilly.
That gave the Lake County a five point buffer and even though Flynn kicked his second point of the half in response, Kildare still had a lot of work to do.
The Maynooth man squandered a couple of frees late on and with Paddy Brophy also missing a goal chance with the fist it was an easy finale for Westmeath.
Kildare rang the changes in the final minutes with attention soon turning towards the National League after O’Toole and Sam Duncan kicked late scores as Westmeath claimed victory on a 1-13 to 1-7 scoreline.
Westmeath: Kevin Fagan; Boidu Sayeh, Ronan Wallace, Killian Daly; James Dolan, Noel Mulligan, David Lynch 0-1, Sean Flanagan, Sam Duncan 0-1; Ger Egan 0-6 (0-2fs, 0-1mf), Callum McCormack, Noel O’Reilly 0-1; Ronan O'Toole 0-3 (0-2mf), Kieran Martin 0-1 (0-1f), Joe Halligan 1-0.
Subs: James Maxwell for Daly 52 mins, Ger Leech for Martin 58 mins, Sean Petit for Halligan 60 mins, Ned Cully for Flanagan 68 mins.
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Mark Hyland, Mark Barrett, Mark Dempsey, David Malone, Eoin Doyle, James Murray, Fionn Dowling 0-1, Paschal Connell, David Slattery 1-0, Adam Tyrrell, Conor Hartley, Neil Flynn 0-6 (0-1f, 0-1mf, 0-1 45), Ben McCormack, Padraig Fogarty.
Subs: Kevin Feely for Hartley 32 mins, Aaron Masterson for Fogarty h-t, Keith Cribbin for Malone h-t, Eoghan O’Flaherty for McCormack 45 mins, David Hyland for M.Hyland 48 mins, Paddy Brophy for Slattery 48 mins, Cian O’Donoghue for Dowling 50 mins, Jason Gibbons for Murray 60 mins, Padraig Nash for Tyrrell 62 mins.
Ref: Barry Tiernan (Dublin)
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