Kildare hurlers lose out to Meath as Royals edge penalty shootout following Lilies late comeback

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Kildare hurlers lose out to Meath as Royals edge penalty shootout following Lilies late comeback
By Patrick Ward 15:48 Sunday 9th of December 2018

Kildare 1-15

Meath 1-15

Meath win 2-0 on penalties

Kehoe Cup round one

The Kildare hurlers got their season up and running with an exciting but ultimately fruitless tie that needed a penalty shootout to separate themselves and Meath at the end of 70 minutes.

The Lilywhites battled back from a seven-point deficit in the second half to force the game to a rare penalty shootout, but the Royals were much more accurate in their attempts as they won 2-0 in that little competition. Shane Quigley and Damien Healy netted their efforts, while Royals goalkeeper Paddy Fagan saved attempts from Brian Byrne and Paul Divilly. All shots were taken from the ’21, and it certainly provided an added layer of excitement at the end of the game.

It was a highly experimental Meath team that arrived in Newbridge as manager Nick Fitzgerald went without any players from five in a row county champions Kiltale and their opponents in this year’s Meath county final, Trim.

David Herity chose to hand out starting debuts to Paul Feerick, Sean Christiansen and Caolan Smith, while another notable aspect of the starting team was the selection of Martin Fitzgerald at centre-back. The Ardclough man was superb at full-forward for the Lilywhites in their successful Christy Ring Cup campaign last year, but his deployment at in the half-back line gave Kildare a ball-playing option in the absence of Mark Moloney.

Fitzgerald was also tasked with marking Padraic O’Hanrahan on his Meath debut, and the Rathoath man was the best player on the pitch in the opening 35 minutes as he buzzed around to great effect and chipped in with five points.

The only problem was that the Kildare full-forward line struggled badly in the first half, with Conor Dowling the only one in there that was gaining any possession by darting to the wings. The supply was hardly lacking either, but too often the Kildare forwards were caught behind their men when the ball arrived.

Whether or not it was the tactics installed by Herity or not, Kildare were seemingly very comfortable passing it around with short exchanges in their own half before delivering the ball long into their forward line.

The first score of the 2019 season came from Naas man Kevin Whelan as he clipped over a fine point from play, but Meath responded by scoring 1-5 without response to take control of the game. O’Hanrahan got his first score of the afternoon with a point from the right wing before nudging over another couple from frees, and Mikie Mullen hit their fourth when he stroked over from close range after being picked out with a fine pass from Steffan Kelly. The big full-forward netted the opening goal of the game in the 19th minute when the Kildare defence failed to deal with a long ball from Keith Keoghan, allowing Kelly to stroke in from close range.

Kildare had squandered a plethora of opportunities on goal up to that point, but Chris Bonus finally ended their baron spell when he smashed over from close range, before the lively Conor Dowling angled over a brilliant score from the right wing to cut the gap to six.

A couple of good scores arrived from Meath as O’Hanrahan and Shane Quigley raised white flags, but Kildare finished the half out strongly to keep their chances alive. Bernard Deay fired over a point, before his long ball towards goal was mishandled by Meath defender Damien Healy which allowed Caolan Smith to bundle his way through on goal and find the net.

That was the last action of the first half, with Meath taking a 1-8 to 1-4 lead into the break.

It was the Royals who dominated the early proceedings in the second half, with the much-changed Meath men threatening to pull away and put the game to bed early doors.

Quigley was superb in that opening spell as he clipped over a couple of tasty scores, while half-time substitute Michael O’Grady fired over one from distance as they powered seven points clear.

Reece Gavin was one of three debutantes off the bench for Kildare, and the rare sight of a Moorefield man playing county hurling certainly had a positive impact as he set up Diarmuid Cahill to thump over a long range score.

Brian Byrne took over free-taking duties following some poor executions from his colleagues in the opening half, and he delivered four points for Kildare, which were split either side of scores from Sean Geraghty and Quigley at the other end.

O’Hanrahan, whose impact in the second half was minimal, rifled over his only score of the half from a free, but the Lilywhites rallied impressively in the final 10 minutes.

Byrne lofted over points from a ’65 and a free, before substitute Ryan Casey got a fine score from play, cutting the deficit to two points as the game teetered into stoppage time. Veteran Paul Divilly then delivered a brilliant score over his shoulder before Casey levelled the game in the 71st minute, and despite Alan Douglas nudging Meath back into the lead, Byrne sent the game to a penalty shootout with the last score of the game from a free.

The penalty shootout provided plenty of intrigue, but Kildare’s failure to hit the target from any of their attempts seen them lose their opening game of the year.

Scorers for Kildare: B Byrne 0-7(5f, 2’65), C Smith 1-0, R Casey 0-2, D Cahill, B Deay K Whelan, P Divilly, C Dowling and C Bonus 0-1 each.

Scorers for Meath: P O’Hanrahan 0-6(4f), S Quigley 0-4, S Kelly 1-0, M O’Grady, F Ferguson, M Mullen, S Geraghty and

Kildare

Paddy McKenna; Cathal Derivan, John Doran, Paul Feerick; Sean Christiansen,  Martin Fitzgerald, Diarmuid Cahill; Brian Byrne, Barry Cormack; Caolan Smith, Paul Divilly, Kevin Whelan; Conor Dowling, Bernard Deay, Chris Bonus.

Subs used: Ryan Casey for Bonus HT, Reece Gavin for Cormack 39mins, Aran Kelly for Dowling 41mins, Brian Waters for Whelan 61mins.

Meath

Paul Fagan; Ciaran O’Rourke, Damien Healy, Chris Lynch; Keith Keoghan, Shane Whitty, Shane Brennan; Seán Geraghty, Stephen Morris; Kevin Keena, Padraic O’Hanrahan, Fionn Ferguson; Mikie Mullen, Stefan Kelly, Shane Quigley.

Subs used: Alan Douglas for Keena 17mins, Dylan Regan for Morris HT, Ger Murphy for M Healy HT, Michael O’Grady for Lynch HT, Alan Nestor for Ferguson 47mins, Martin Healy for Kelly 55mins.

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