Boyle again points in injury time for a draw
"THE last match of the League and the first sniff of summer," said one lyrical supporter climbing the steps to Fr Tierney Park in sunny Ballyshannon yesterday. Neither Kildare nor Donegal can expect extensive summers on the basis of yesterday's display but you don't expect championship performances in February.
Nonetheless, before a crowd of about 4,000, the teams did serve up an intense match with a frantic finish that wouldn't have, looked out of place later in the year.
In the event, Tony Boyle's injury-time equaliser pushed Donegal to the top of the first division and left Kildare facing a relegation play-off against neighbours Laois. It was a fair enough result.
Kildare manager Dermot Earley felt his team deserved to win but Donegal's late mobilisation meant that things could have been worse for the visitors. In the last 10 minutes the woodwork and some bad free-taking was all that came between Kildare and Division Two.
Nevertheless, it was Kildare who came closest. During the third quarter they took some sort of a grip at midfield with Martin Murray grafting to good effect.
In attack, Johnny McDonald was enjoying a purple patch and sniped purposefully around the 40 while also taking two points to add to the one he had from the first half. Martin Lynch had come on at full forward after half-time and if he struggled to make an impact - from the moment Brian Murray coolly beat the Kildareman to his first contested high ball - his presence unsettled Donegal.
Paul McCormack was the visitors' most impressive forward and used his strength and appetite to drive the team's attack up the right wing. Behind him, Fergus Aspell had a fine match at wing back. A frequent traveller to the front lines - where he kicked a splendid point and was only denied a goal by a good save from Gary Walsh Aspell's covering-back was scrupulous and never left him out of position.
The competitive final quarter was fairly at odds with an inept first halt. Tony Boyle scored Donegal's goal from a penalty, awarded for a foul on Boyle him self after a piercing pass in from John Duffy. Boyle played most of the match well away from his frill forward slot and was policed by Kildare corner back Seamus Dowling.
Donegal played with the wind and missed the usual batch of chances but were holding out well at the back where Mark Crossan did an outstanding job mopping up what little came through. Generally, the home team ran the ball effectively out of defence but saw promising moves break down closer to goal because of poor distribution.
Kildare, of course, weren't, much better and their own performance followed a similar pattern.a Well served at the back, particularly by the spine of Davy Dalton, ferociously competitive at full-back, and Glen Ryan whose powerful surges from centre back yielded two well-taken points.
In attack, there were problems. David Fennin endured a woeful first half until being substituted at half-time and McDonald, who despite his three points (one of, which was taken with Lynch free, inside), made a patchy contribution.
Trailing 0-4 to 1-2 at half-time, Kildare came out well fired-up and doubled their score within 12 minutes with four points from play by McDonald (two), Buckley, and Ryan. Tony Boyle and James Ruane added a couple to Donegal's total before a further burst of three points, Aspell, Noel Donlon and Buckley, placed Kildare well in command.
That was the stage, however, when they let up. Midfield became more of a battleground with Brian Murray considerably lifting both his and the team's performance by starting to nail down possession in the middle. On came a couple of experienced heads, Barry McGowan and Manus Boyle, and gradually Donegal were turning the screw.
Manus Boyle's entrance looked likely to remedy the free-kicking deficiencies but strangely, he was rarely asked to perform and then contented himself with a couple of quickly taken, short efforts.
Tony Boyle has manfully shouldered the burden of free-taking in recent weeks but although his points have gained injury-time draws for Donegal in all three matches since Christmas, place-kicking is not his forte.
This week's contribution came in the 62nd minute from a simple right-hand position. It was a somewhat dubious award, but Boyle calmly obliged to push his team emphatically into the quarter-finals and leave Kildare with some work to do.