Leinster Minor Football Championship round one
They made hard work of it for long stretches, but Kildare safely navigated the first of their hurdles as they seek to defend the Leinster titles that have been won in 2015 and 2016. A new look team under Gay Campbell hit 10 wides in total against a Carlow side who lived off scraps for the most part, and it wasn't until a couple of goals inside the last 10 minutes of this encounter that the Lilywhites actually pulled away.
Captain David Kelly deserves plenty of credit for his display in the win, scoring 1-2 during a pivotal period in which Kildare looked as if they were toiling, before going off injured with five minutes left to play.
It was never going to be easy for Kildare as they sought to deal with the expectations that follow a couple of Leinster title wins in the last two years, and Carlow presented a potential banana skin for the Lilywhites even though they were hot favourites.
Carlow showed plenty of quality during the Minor Football League in the spring, running a superb Meath outfit close, and there was a quite confidence in the Golden Vale that they could cause an upset against the defending champions.
Carlow began well, but their opening score in the first minute had an air of fortune to it as Jordan Morrissey's delivery from a long way out took an awkward bounce, and Kildare goalkeeper Aaron O'Neill could only tip it over the bar.
At the other end it was the excellent Darragh Kirwan who settled the Lilywhites into the game; he registered his first point of the encounter with a composed finish following some good work from Cian McQuillan, while his second score arrived after four minutes when the umpires correctly changed their mind and raised a white flag for an effort from 30 metres out that had crept inside the left upright.
Carlow dominated for the next 10 minutes, and a mixture of their own class and confidence and some stand-offish defending from Kildare saw them tack on the next five points. Robert Kane landed a long range point for the hosts before knocking over a free, and further scores from Gavin Healy and Cormac Lomax had Peter McConnon's men leading by 0-5 to 0-2 midway through the first half.
The game would swing back in the other direction then however, and Kildare came back into the game after that point however, and they kicked five in a row of their own to reassert a bit of dominance. Predictably, it was Kirwan who instigated the resurgence in the defending champions' ranks, as he showed great strength to hold off two Carlow defenders and curl over a close range score. A lovely point from the left wing from Finlay Nairn soon followed, before the lively Shane O'Sullivan fired over his first score of the day after embarking on a mazy run through the Carlow defence.
The ball-winning ability of David Kelly and Cian McQuillan around the middle was instrumental to the visitors getting a foothold in the game once again, as both men claimed numerous marks as they turned the screw on their opponents.
A free from Jack Barrett and a point from Daragh Ryan - younger brother of senior star Shea - put Kildare into a two-point lead for the first time in the game, but a Conor Doyle free two minutes before the break ensured that the sides went in with just the minimum between them as Kildare led 0-7 to 0-6.
The second half took an age to get going, and, in truth, it never really sparked to life as both teams appeared to be playing well within themselves, especially Kildare. It wasn't until Barrett's goal eight minutes from time that they finally looked at ease, and their propensity to kick wides from good scoring positions put their progress at risk.
Doyle landed a free for the hosts after six minutes of play, but it took almost eight minutes for Kildare to get on the scoreboard themselves, with Kirwan pouncing on a loose Carlow line ball, delivering it across to Ryan and he slotted over his second point of the day. Doyle responded with another point from a placed ball, but Kelly took over for a period after that.
His first act of brilliance was whem he claimed a fine mark from a Carlow kickout, drove forward with the ball on a 40 metre run and curled it over with his left from close range, before he then launched over an exceptional from 50 metres to put Kildare two clear once again.
A nervy spell followed as the visitors failed to continue their purple patch, and Carlow could have nudged back into the lead when Jordan Morrissey broke through on goal, but his shot was brilliantly blocked by a diving Adam Cronin, and the midfielder's follow-up was saved on the line by Daniel Reilly.
Fresh from that wake up call, Kildare went about asserting some dominance on the game again, and their vital first goal arrived on 52 minutes. Substitute Jack Cully hit the post with a shot for a point from the left wing, but it dropped into the path of Jack Barrett inside the square and he palmed home. Kelly then put the game to bed when he claimed a long ball from James Carey at the edge of the area, turned and put it into the back of Jack Rowan's net.
They finished the game out with relative ease as Pauric Tuohy, Shane O'Sullivan and Ger Cunningham all landed late scores to send Kildare through to the next round safely.
Scorers for Carlow: C Doyle 0-4, R Kane 0-2(1f), G Healy, C Lomax and J Morrissey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildare: D Kelly 1-2, J Barrett 1-1(1f), D Kirwan 0-3, D Ryan and S O'Sullivan(1f) 0-2 each, P Tuohy, F Nairn, E McGovern and G Cunningham 0-1 each.
J Rowan; S Molloy, R Gahan, R Hollick; K Gaffney, J McCabe, T Roache; J Morrissey, C Doyle; C Lomax(A Kehoe 50mins), J Byrne, R St Ledger(J Nolan 54mins); R Kane, C O'Neill(R Curran 39mins), G Healy.
A O'Neill; D REilly, M Barrett, A Cronin; J Travers(G Cunningham 44mins), D Carroll, D Ryan; D Kelly(P Tuohy 55mins), C McQuillan(J Carey 39mins); F Nairn, N O'Sullivan(D Foley 46mins), B McDonnell; D Kirwan(J Cully 51mins), S O'Sullivan, J Barrett(E McGovern 60mins).
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