O'Connor has that little bit extra for Kildare
Kildare 1-16 Dublin 0-17:The Dublin flag flew at a half-mast as a decent crowd turned out at Parnell Park on Saturday evening and honoured the memory of Kevin Heffernan with a sustained round of applause.
Both teams then delivered an absorbing Bórd na Móna O’Byrne Cup final and it was Kildare, stronger and ultimately more resilient, who went on to regain the trophy after two years. There was more good football on display than anyone in the attendance of around 4,500 had a right to expect given the condition of a very soft surface, which cut up over the 90 minutes.
The younger, more experimental Dublin line-up looked livelier for much of the match but weren’t able to kick on from promising positions, leading by three points at three different times, whereas up to the 83rd minute Kildare had led only once and for a matter of seconds.
With six minutes of extra- time remaining Kildare went more than a point in front for the first time and Dublin weren’t able to score again. Replacement Tomás O’Connor at full forward proved the difference with the last three scores of the match, including the pivotal goal, which wiped out Dublin’s interval lead, 0-17 to 0-14, in the additional period.
It had an element of luck in that Declan O’Mahony looked to have averted the danger by catching the ball on the line but on his way out he lost possession and the waiting O’Connor was happy to avail of the opportunity by lashing the ball into the net. He then added two points to give Kildare the trophy and extend the county’s lead at the top of the competition’s roll of honour.
“All the training in the world won’t give you that kind of stuff,” said a happy Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney afterwards, “trying to make decisions under pressure. Probably the most pleasing part was we had four under-21s on for most of the game and I though they all acquitted themselves very well.”
In the opening stages Dublin had the territorial advantage and Paddy Andrews gave a strong performance orchestrating the attack but it was one of the few first-choice players, Michael Darragh Macauley, who lent most dynamism to the team going forward with his ability to break tackles a regular threat.
But Kildare were efficient with their chances with just one scoring attempt from play going wide in the first half. Paddy Brophy kicked two nice points, as did the impressive Niall Kelly. Daniel Flynn’s switch from full forward to centrefield towards the end of the first half brought great improvement there for Kildare, whereas O’Connor’s arrival on the edge of the square for the second half would prove ultimately decisive.
Another of Dublin’s regulars, Bernard Brogan, worked hard but had a frustrating evening. The glue-pot surface was a hindrance and whereas the service into him wasn’t universally awful, it’s fair to say he wouldn’t have left much of a tip. In addition Ollie Lyons marked him like a manacle.
After a scoring spree in the two minutes before half-time – a third of the first half’s total – Paul Mannion, who impressed with two fine points from play either side of the break, left Dublin ahead 0-8 to 0-7 at the break.
Mannion’s second and another from Andrews left the margin at three but Kildare ran it down. Emmet Bolton’s point might have been a goal and there were further scores from Brophy and the eternal John Doyle.
So it continued: a mini break on the scoreboard for Dublin followed by a levelling burst from Kildare all the way up to the finish of 70 minutes when a Doyle free and an equalising score by replacement Pádraig O’Neill sent the match into extra time.
Denis Bastick was red-carded for striking in the final minute in a fracas that ensued when referee Eddie Kinsella failed to spot a blatant jersey pull by Seánie Johnston – who had missed a couple of chances to win it for Kildare in ordinary time – on Darren Daly. Doyle did something similar but escaped censure.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin bemoaned the “cynicism” in the game but said he’d leave further observation “to the referee’s assessor”. He also put on the record his own thoughts about his iconic predecessor.
“We mentioned inside before the game the virtues and what Kevin brought to the game of football. He was a visionary, a strategist and those guys stand on his shoulders. Certainly I, and the guys there, wouldn’t be where we are in Dublin GAA without the vision of Kevin Heffernan.”