Dublin 1-11 Kildare 0-13
If Dublin are to take anything from Saturday night, they can at least find solace in finally coming out on top in a close game. Beating Kildare by a point ended a run of almost three years without win in games decided by a goal or less. Their ability do the right thing at the right time to close out these matches that used to be their calling card. This wasn’t that – they only scored twice in the closing 27 minutes in the end up. But maybe it was a start.
There’s early-season rust and there’s Division Two early season rust and you wouldn’t say that either side here offered a huge amount to warm the 17,161 crowd. In all their years in Division One, Dublin didn’t get out of many matches intact after scoring 12 times from 30 chances. But the tariff isn’t quite as steep when you come down the leagues.
That said, the notion that they were going to eat Division Two whole was always going to get its greatest stress-test in this fixture, given that Kildare had beaten them in the league last year in Newbridge. Indeed, Kildare had all the momentum towards the end and slashed a five-point margin to one deep in injury-time.
But that owed plenty to Dublin’s shoddy work in front of goal and as the night wore on, Kildare became overly reliant on Neil Flynn’s place-kicking to turn the scoreboard. In all truth, they couldn’t really lay claim to much more than they got.
“We expect to finish strong,” said Kildare manager Glenn Ryan afterwards. “Whatever about finishing strong, at least we finished positively, trying to commit to getting something out of the game. We’re disappointed not to get something out of the game.”
Dublin were able to see it out mostly thanks to a 10-minute spurt early in the second half, during which they stretched their two-point half-time lead out to five. It was their best spell of the game and – coincidentally or not – it was the one period in which they repeatedly sent early ball into the Dublin full-forward line.
Con O’Callaghan had been anonymous throughout the opening half but he rattled off back-to-back points on the restart, both of them coming from long, early deliveries played into him. Cormac Costello had a brilliant goal chance saved by Mark Donnellan after another ball played in from distance and the sense that they might be about to double down on last year’s Leinster final rout was suddenly in the air. But it wasn’t really repeated from there to the end and Kildare were able to hang on and keep it close down the stretch.
All in all, it was middling enough fare from Dublin. The one bit of their play that rhymed in the first half came in the build-up to Brian Fenton’s goal. It was a slick move – Eoin Murchan surging down the right, Sean McMahon stealing in behind, Fenton’s finish scudding into the bottom corner. That was five minutes into the new season and if it was a taste of what Dublin are offering up for 2023, then there’s plenty in the coming year for them.
But it turned out to be an orphan on the night. If anything, Kildare had that bit more thrust in attack, particularly in the form of Jack Robinson, making only his third start for Ryan’s side. He finished with three points from play in an eye-catching display, as did full-forward Darragh Kirwan. Kildare’s shooting was much better – a 61 per cent conversion rate, compared to 40 per cent for Dublin.
For all that, Dublin led 1-5 to 0-6 at the break and came out with a mind to kill the game off at the start of the second half. O’Callaghan’s rat-a-tat double was followed by one each for Ross McGarry and Ciarán Kilkenny. By the 48th minute, they were five clear, 1-9 to 0-7.
Kildare regrouped. Jimmy Hyland and Kirwan supplied smart finishes to stop the game getting away from them. They fashioned one goal chance – Tony Archbold’s shot was saved by David O’Hanlon on 50 minutes and bounced out off the butt of the post – and a string of well-taken frees and 45s by Neil Flynn inched them closer. But they ran out of road in the end.
“First day out, good to get the win for sure,” said Dessie Farrell afterwards. “But you’d know there was a lot of ring-rustiness and shaking the cobwebs. Our shooting efficiency was poor and our skill execution wasn’t where you’d want it to be at times. That’s to be expected I think.”
Dublin: David O’Hanlon; Eoin Murchan, Greg McEananey, Mick Fitzsimons; Klee Gannon, John Small (0-1), Cian Murphy; Brian Fenton (1-0), Tom Lahiff; Niall Scully (0-1), Ross McGarry (0-1), Sean McMahon; Cormac Costello (0-4, 0-3 frees), Ciarán Kilkenny (0-1), Con O’Callaghan (0-2). Subs: David Byrne for Murchan, half-time; Colm Basquel for McGarry, 48 mins; Dean Rock (0-1, free) for McEananey, 56 mins; Cillian O’Gara for Costello, 68 mins; Peadar Ó Cofaigh-Byrne for Lahiff, 72 mins
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Mick O’Grady, Shera Ryan, Ryan Houlihan; Darragh Malone, David Hyland, Paddy McDermott; Aaron Masterson, Kevin O’Callaghan; Neil Flynn (0-4, 0-1 free, 0-2 45s), Kevin Flynn, Paul Cribbin; Jimmy Hyland (0-3, 0-1 free), Darragh Kirwan (0-3, 0-1 free), Jack Robinson (0-3). Subs: Paddy Woodgate for J Hyland (blood) 31-37 mins; Alex Bierne for Cribbin, 48 mins; Tony Archbold for Malone, 48 mins; Ben McCormack for J Hyland, 60 mins; Kevin Feely for Masterson, 61 mins; Jack Sargent for Houlihan, 72 mins
Referee: Brendan Griffin (Kerry)