Joe Mallon SFC round two winners section
Johnstownbridge gave an emphatic example of just what they can do as they breezed pass Naas and into the last eight of the Kildare Senior Football Championship with a rather comprehensive seven-point victory over the beaten Division 1 league finalists.
Naas looked in rude health when they kicked 1-5 on the trot in a 10 minute spell during the first half, but Johnstownbridge owned the remainder of the game as their county contingent of Daniel Flynn, Cathal McNally and the Cribbin brothers really came to the fore, while Sean Hurley was also outstanding for the winners. Their victory may be somewhat blighted by the second half injury suffered to Keith Cribbin as he was helped off the field with a leg injury. The county star only came back to full fitness at the end of last year following a cruciate ligament injury suffered in 2015, so those involved with club and county will be hoping the injury is not too serious this time around.
The first half was a hugely contrasting encounter that saw both teams enjoy sustained purple patches but neither ever pulling away from the other in what was a thoroughly absorbing encounter. Johnstownbridge dominated for all but 10 minutes of the opening 30 as Naas recorded their full tally of 1-5 during the middle third of the half, but it was a rather even affair nonetheless.
Sean Hurley was exceptional in that first period as he gave a glimpse of what he was before his stint playing Aussie Rules, with his return last year being largely hampered by niggling injuries ever since. It was the former county star that opened the scoring after four tentative minutes, running at the Naas backline before clipping it over from close range. Daniel Flynn was proving a handful at the edge of the square, and a couple of points in quick succession from the rangy full-forward had his side three to the good after just seven minutes. His county compatriot, Cathal McNally, got in on the act soon after,delicately lofting a point over from 35 metres out, and Hurley added his first free of the evening to send Johnstownbridge five clear with just under 10 minutes played.
Naas eventually got the engine up and running and moved up a gear, and it was midfielder Paul McDermott who opened their account with a fine score from distance to the left of the posts, while that was followed by a superb score from John Joyce after he was found by an inch-perfect pass from Joey Cocoman over the top of the Johnstownbridge defence. The County Town side pulled themselves level less than a minute later when Ronan Joyce showed great strength to hold off a couple of opposition defenders, cut inside onto his left boot and slot a low drive past Johnstownbridge 'keeper Ken Dixon, tying the game up at 1-2 to 0-5. Another close range score from John Joyce and two converted frees from his brother Ronan had Naas three clear as they inflicted serious damage in a 10 minute spell to grab control of the game.
Johnstownbridge began to get on top in midfield then however, and with the likes of Paul Cribbin, Jimmy Farrell and Keith Cribbin coming to the fore they wrestled back the momentum of the game. They scored for the first time in 12 minutes when a long ball from Luke Flynn found his brother Dan, he offloaded to Farrell and he coolly slotted over, and another pointed free from Hurley cut the deficit to one.
Paul Cribbin then landed two points in a row, the first of which was a superb effort from the right wing as he pushed Johnstownbridge back into the lead, and a monstrous free from 50 metres out off the boot of Hurley doubled their advantage. They ensured that they left the field at half-time with four points of a lead as Keith Cribbin split the posts with a '45 and Hurley followed up with his fifth point of the first half, sending Johnstownbridge in with a 0-12 to 1-5 advantage.
The leaders picked up precisely where they had left off when the game resumed, as Sam Doran knocked over an early score from close range with just 35 seconds on the clock, and another fine score from Keith Cribbin after Hurley had impressively claimed a Naas kickout put them six clear early in the second half. Naas were struggling to keep the pace even at this early stage, and with Johnstownbridge dictating proceedings in almost every department, Declan McCabe's side became somewhat reliant on Ronan Joyce for scores. He clipped over a free in the 33rd minute to end a 15 minute barren spell, but another fabulous score from Dan Flynn and a fisted point from Farrell widened the gap and made Naas' task even harder as they looked to find a route back into the tie.
A couple of points in a row from Ronan Joyce offered some brief hope for Naas, but they were hanging on in there by that point and their opponents only seemed to be growing in strength. Two fine scores in as many minutes from the increasingly influential McNally fattened up their lead to seven points at the midway stage of the second half, leaving too steep a mountain for Naas to scale. Joyce chimed in with another point, but they failed to score again for another 13 minutes as the fizz went out of the game completely. The only thing missing from the Johnstownbridge performance was a goal, and they would have had one were it not for Luke Mullins who bravely dived at the feet to stop a certain Glen Doran goal, and he was quick enough to get back to his feet to capture Doran's rebound shot.
Naas lost Paul McDermott to a red card when he received a second yellow 13 minutes from time, and there was little to write home about in those closing stages as Johnstownbridge repelled everything that Naas threw at them in their quest for a late goal.
It's a marked improvement for Johnstownbridge in comparison to last year when they conceded 8-13 to Moorefield at this stage of the championship, but they now go straight through to the last eight while Naas have to navigate a tricky third round encounter to make it that far.
Scorers for Johnstownbridge: S Hurley 0-5(4f), P Cribbin, C McNally and D Flynn 0-3 each, S Doran, J Farrell and K Cribbin(1'45) 0-2 each.
Scorers for Naas: R Joyce 1-6(5f), J Joyce 0-2, R Bergin and P McDermott 0-1 each.
K Dixon; D Holton, L Flynn, J O'Connor; K Cribbin(D Maguire 38mins), S McNally, J Higgins; B McNally, S Hurley; P Cribbin(M Donnelly 54mins), C McNally, G Doran; J Farrell(S Flanagan 50mins), D Flynn, S Doran(K McNally 53mins).
L Mullins; S Gibbons, E Bateman, S Bergin; A McDermott, E Callaghan, B Kane; D Gahan(D Shaw 45mins), P McDermott; J Joyce, J Cocoman(D Gallagher 33mins), R Bergin(A Cronin 60mins); A Begley(C Doyle HT), R Joyce, C Mellett.
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